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Full text of "Running the gauntlet : a novel"

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; GEORGE . RQUTLLEpCEtSO 





^ 



[AMES n-^pAFF, 
Baltimore 




ROBERT W. WOODRUFF 
LIBRARY 




RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



$ p»i. 



EDMUND YATES, 

AUTHOR OF "BLACK SHEEP," "KISSING THE ROD," ETC. 



FORTITER FIDELITER FELICITER. 



LONDON: 
GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS, 

THE BROADWAY, LUDGATE. 

NEW YORK: 416, BROOME STREET. 

1867. 



JOHN CHITJJS AND SON, PKINTEES. 



TO 



NICHOLAS HERBERT HARRINGTON, 



OLD COMRADE AND TRIED FRIEND. 



CONTENTS. 



CII.U 




PAGE 


I. 


NEWS 


7 


II. 


MORE NEWS ... 


. 15 


III. 


AT THE PARTHENIUM ... 


.. 25 


IV. 


IN THE SMOKING-ROOM 


. 39 


V. 


GEORGIE 


.. 47 


"VI. 


THE GRAYS ... 


. 59 


Til. 


WHAT HAD DETAINED SIR CHARLES 


. 73 


VIII. 


KISMET 


.. 81 


IX. 


mr effingham's proceedings ... 


9G 


X. 


SOUVENT FEMME VARIE 


. 103 


XI. 


DOWN AT REDMOOR 


. 114 


XII. 


DRAWING COVER 


. 123 


XIII. 


sir Charles's visit 


. 13G 


XIV. 


IX THE TOILS 


. 14S 


XV 


egremont triory 


. 1G1 


XVI. 


CHECK 


. 174 



VI 



CONTENTS. 



CHAP. 

XVII. COUNTERCHECK 

XVIII. IN THE DRAWING-ROOM 
XIX. DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND 
XX. CHECKMATE ... 
XXI. COLONEL ALSAGER's COUNSEL 
XXII. KNOCKHOLT PARK 
XXIII. LORD DOLLAMORE'S COUNSEL 
XXIV. MR EFFINGHAM'S PROGRESS 
XXV. A CRISIS AT REDMOOR ... 
XXVI. MR WUF3?'S " NEW STAR " 
XXVII. LOVE AND DUTY 

xxvin. sir Laurence's letter 
XXIX. A "tercel gentle" ... 

XXX. NATURE AND ART 
XXXI. AMONG THE SPRINGS 
XXXII. REAPING THE WHIRLWIND 
XXXIII. LAST WORDS ... 



PAGE 

181 
193 

206 
217 
227 
240 
256 
278 
290 
304 
317 
337 
354 
374 
394 
411 
425 



RITMIM THE GAUNTLET. 



CHAPTER I. 

NEWS. 

Throughout the length and breadth of this London of ours 
there were few legal firms, no matter of how old standing, 
doing a better, larger ready-money business than that of Moss 
and Moss of Cursitor Street, Chancery Lane. Looked down 
upon ? "Well, one could hardly say that. Old Mr Trivett, 
of the firm of Trivett, Coverdale, and Trivett of Bedford 
Row, who had the secrets of half the first families in England 
locked up in his dusty japanned boxes ; young Mr Markham, 
who, besides being nominally a solicitor, was a high-bailiff 
somewhere, and had chambers in the Albany, and rode a 
very maney and taily light chestnut cob in the Row ; and a 
few others, — might shrug their shoulders when the names of 
Moss and Moss were mentioned ; but that did no harm to 
Moss and Moss, who, on the whole, were very well respect- 
ed throughout the profession. At Mrs Edward Moss's Sun- 
day-evening parties in the Regent's Park were to be met 
many people whose names were pleasantly familiar to tbe 
public. Mr Smee, Q. C, known as " Alibi Smee " from his 
great success in proving that his clients never had been 
within fifty miles of the spot where the crime with which 
they were charged was committed ; Mr Sergeant Orson ; 
Mr Tocsin, who bullied a witness admirably, but who gave 
more trouble to Edward Moss than any other man at the 
bar, wanting perpetual cramming and suggestions, and hav- 
ing the face of brass and the lungs of steel and tbe head of 
wool ; Mr Replevin, the most rising junior at the O.B. ; and 



8 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

others, amongst them Grilks, the marine painter, some of 
whose choicest bits adorned Mrs Moss's walls ; Kreese, the 
editor of the great sporting, literary, and theatrical Sunday 
print, The Scourge ; O'Meara of the Stock Exchange ; and 
actors, actresses, and singers too numerous to mention. 
These last were invited through Mr Marshall Moss, Edward's 
brother and junior partner, who was a bachelor, and who, 
though he gave occasional excellent Greenwich and Rich- 
mond dinners, yet had no house of his own to entertain in. 
Marshall Moss attended to the more convivial portion of the 
clients ; the actors who had differed from their managers ; 
the ladies who wanted certain settlements arranged ; the 
sporting publicans who wanted " the screw put upon certain 
parties ;" the fast young gents requiring defence from civil 
process, — were shown up to Marshall's room on the first- 
floor, a comfortable room with several arm-chairs, and a 
cupboard never without sherry and soda-water ; a room 
where some of the best stories in London were from time 
to time told, and which was fenced off with thick double 
doors, to prevent the laughter caused by them penetrating 
to Edward's sanctum downstairs. 

Eor Edward attended to the real clients of the house — 
those for whom it was originally established — those by 
whom its fame had been made. And these were — thieves. 
Yes, there is no blinking the word. If a burglar were 
" in trouble," if a forger had been apprehended, if some 
very heavy turf-robbery had come to light, Edward Moss's 
busy brain was at work, and Edward Moss's hours of sleep 
were ruthlessly curtailed. He did not care about the 
heaviest kind of business, though two or three murderers 
unquestionably owed their necks to his skill and fore- 
thought ; and he refused all petty cases of magsmen, 
skittle-sharps, and card-swindlers. They would have longed 
to have him ; but they knew it was impossible. He did 
not like their style of business, and, above all things fatal to 
a chance of their engaging him, he never did anything on 
spec. When a man Avas " in trouble " he knew that it was 
no use sending for Mr Moss without being able to tell him 
that at such-and-such a tavern or lodging-house he would 
find a landlord willing and ready to advance the fee for the 



NEWS. 9 

prisoner's defence. Then Mr Moss would step into the 
first hansom outside the station, and hie away to St Luke's, 
Cripplegate, Drury Lane, or any other locality indicated, 
and returning Avith the money in his pocket, Avould hear all 
that the prisoner had to say, and straightway determine on 
the line of defence. A wonderful little man, Edward Moss ! 
wonderful to look at ! without the smallest sign of colour 
in his shrunken, baggy, parchmenty face, with small gray 
eyes under overhanging bristly brows, with a short stubbly 
head of gray hair, a restless twitchi§g mouth, thin wiry 
figure, and dirty hands with close-bitten dubby nails. In 
these respects a very different man from his brother Mar- 
shall, who was a by-no-means bad-looking Hebrew, with a 
handsome beard and moustache, full scarlet lips, prominent 
brown eyes, and in face and figure showing a general liking 
for the flesh-pots and other good things of this life. Where 
Edward Moss wore dirt, Marshall Moss sported jewelry, 
and each brother was sufficiently vain of his display. Each 
knew his business perfectly, and neither interfered Avith the 
other. Marshall's clients drove up in broughams or rattled 
in hansoms to the front-door, went up the broad staircase to 
the first-floor, and either passed straight into the presence, 
or beguiled the necessary interval in the perusal of the 
daily papers handed to them by obsequious clerks. Ed- 
Avard's clients sneaked in through a narrow door up a side- 
court ; had their names and business wrung from them by 
the most precocious and most truculent of JeAV boys ; Avere 
left to rub their greasy shoulders up and doAvn the Avhite- 
Avashed walls of a ghastly waiting-room until " Mithter 
Edward " chose to listen to the recital of their distress and 
Avishes. 

Occasionally, however, visitors to Mr Edward Moss came 
in at the large front-door, and afterwards made the best of 
their Avay to his sanctum. They were generally jseople AA'ho 
would not have been regarded with much favour by the 
greasy-shouldered clients in the court. This A\ T as one of 
them who entered Cursitor Street on a Avarm June after- 
noon, and made straight for the front-door blazing with the 
door-plate of " Moss and Moss." A middle-sized fattish 
man, ill-dressed in an ill-fitting blue frock-coat and gray 



10 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

trousers, and a very innocent-looking small hat with a black 
mourning-band ; a sodden-faced sleepy-looking man with 
mild blue eyes and an undecided mouth ; a man like a not 
very prosperous publican ; a man, who, with a fresher com- 
plexion, and at another time of year, might have been taken 
for a visitor to the Cattle Show ; who looked, in fact, any- 
thing but what he was — chief officer of the City detectives 
and the terror of all the evil-doers of the East-end. He 
walked through the hall, and, leaving the staircase leading 
to Mr Marshall Moss's rooms on his right, passed to the 
end of the passage and tapped at a door on which was in- 
scribed the word " Private " in large letters. It must have 
been a peculiar knock which he gave, for the door was im- 
mediately opened merely wide enough to admit him, and 
closed as he passed through. 

" Ah, ah ! " said a little man in an enormous pair of 
spectacles ; " ah, ah ! ' ith you, iuthpector ! The govern- 
or'th been athkin' after you to-day. Let'th have a look," 
he continued, lifting a corner of a green-baize curtain; 
" ah ! he'th jutht shakin' off that troublethome perjury. 
Now I'll give him your name." 

This was Mr Amedroz, Edward Moss's right-hand man, 
who knew all his master's secrets, and who was so reticent 
that he never opened his mouth where he could convey as 
much by writing. So Mr Amedroz inscribed " Stellfox " in 
large round-text on a slip of paper, laid it before his prin- 
cipal, and, receiving an affirmative nod, ushered the inspector 
into the presence. 

" Morning, Stellfox," said Mr Edward, glancing up from 
a mass of papers in front of him ; " report ? " 

Inspector Stellfox, unbuttoning his blue frock-coat, pro- 
duced from his breast-pocket a thick note-book, and com- 
menced : 

" Sorry 'to say, nothing new about Captain Congreve sir. 
"We've tried — " 

" Now look here, Stellfox," interrupted Mr Moss • 
" you've had that business in hand a fortnight. If y OU 
don't report by Wednesday, I'll give that to Scotland 
Tard. Tour men are getting lazy, and I'll try what Sir 
Bichard Mayne's people can do. What next ? " 



NEWS. 11 

Crestfallen, Inspector Stellfox continued, — " Slimy AVil- 
liam, sir." 

" "Well," said Mr Moss keenly, " what of him ? " 

" I think that's . all right, sir. "We've found out where 
his mother lives, — Shad's Row, Wapping, No. 3 ; hill up in 
the window, ' a room to let.' If you've no objection, one 
of my men shall take that room, sir, and try and work it 
that way." 

" No," said Mr Moss ; " must put a woman in there. 
Don't you know a woman up to that sort of thing ? " 

" There's Hodder's wife, sir, as helped us in Charlton's 
case ; she'd do." 

" I recollect ; she'll do well. Eurnished or unfur- 
nished ? " 

" Unfurnished room, sir.'' 

" All right ; hire some furniture of the broker. Tell 
Mrs Hodder to get in at once. Widow ; or husband em- 
ployed on railway in the country. Must keep a gin-bottle 
always open, and be generous with it. Old lady will talk 
over her drink ; and Mrs Hodder must find out where 
Slimy William is, what name he's going under, and must 
notice what letters old lady receives. Tell her to take a 
child with her. Has she got a child ? " 

" Not of her own, sir." 

" Never mind ; must get one of some one else's. Mtist 
see you, or one of your men, every morning. Child will 
want air — excuse for her taking him out. If Slimy Wil- 
liam is coming home on the sudden, child must be taken ill 
in the middle of the night ; she can take it to the doctor, 
and come down to you." 

" Right, sir. Now about Coping Crossman." 

" Well ? " 

" Markham will have him to-night, sir. That girl 'Liza 
Burdon blew his gaff for him last night. He's a comic 
singer, he is. Goes by the name of Munmorency, and 
siugs at the Cambridge Music-hall." 

" Good ! What of Mitford ? " 

" Well, nothing yet, sir. You're hard upon me, Mr 
Moss, and that you are. We've only had that case three 
days, and you're expecting information already." 



iZ RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

" Stellfox," said Mr Moss rising, and taking a sonorous 
pinch of snuff, " you detectives are mere shams. You've 
been spoilt by the penny press, and the shilling books, and 
all that. Tou think you're wonderful fellows, aud you 
know nothing — literally nothing. If I didn't do your 
work as well as my own, where should we be ? Don't 
answer ; listen ! Mitford has been three times within the 
last week to the Crown coffee-house in Doctors' Commons. 
There's very little doubt that he'll go there again ; for it's 
a quiet house, and he seems to like it. You've got his 
description ; be off at once." 

Inspector Stellfox had transacted too much business with 
Mr Edward Moss to expect any further converse, so he 
took up the child's hat and quietly bowed and departed. 

To say that of all the intensely-quiet and respectable 
houses in that strange portion of the City of London known 
as Doctors' Commons the Crown coffee-house is the most 
quiet and respectable, is making a strong assertion, but one 
which could yet be borne out by facts. It is a sleepy, 
dreamy neighbourhood still, although its original intense 
dulness has been somewhat enlivened by the pedestrians 
who make Paul's Chain a passage to the steamboats calling 
at Paul's Wharf; and the hansom cabs which find a short 
cut down Great St Andrew's Hill to the South-Western 
Railway. But it is still the resort of abnormal individuals, 
— ticket-porters, to wit ; plethoric individuals in half-dirty 
white aprons and big badges like gigantic opera-checks, 
men whose only use seems to be to warn approaching 
vehicles of the blocking-up of the narrow streets ; and sable- 
clad mottled-faced proctors and their clerks. There are 
real green trees in Doctors' Commons ; and flies and but- 
terflies — by no means bad imitations of the real country in- 
sect — are seen there on the wing in the sultry summer 
days, buzzing round the heads of the ticket-porters, and of 
the strong men who load the Bottle Company's heavy carts, 
and who are always flinging huge fragments of rusty iron 
into the capacious hold of the Mary Anne of Gloole, stuck 
high and dry in the mud off Paul's Wharf before mentioned. 
Life is rampant in the immediate vicinity, — in enormous 



NEWS. 1 

Manchester warehouses, perpetually inhaling the contents 
of enormous Pickford's vans ; in huge blocks of offices where 
the representatives of vast provincial firms take orders and 
transact business; in corn-stores and iron-companies; in 
mansions tilled from basement to roof with Dresden china 
and Bohemian glass ; in insurance-offices and banks ; and 
in the office of the great journal, where the engines for six 
days out of the seven, are unceasingly throbbing. But in 
the Commons life gives way to mere existence and vegeta- 
tion. The organ-man plays unmolested on Addle Hill, and 
the children's shuttlecocks flutter in Wardrobe Place ; no 
Pickford's vans disturb the calm serenity of Great Knight- 
rider Street ; and instead of warehouses and offices, there 
are quaint old dumpy congregationless churches, big ramb- 
ling old halls of City Companies, the forgotten old Heralds' 
College with its purposeless traditions, a few apparently 
nothing-doing shops, a number of proctors' offices into 
which man is never seen to enter, and two or three refresh- 
ment-rooms. Of these the Crown is the oldest and the 
dirtiest. It was established — if you may trust the half- 
effaced legend over its door — in 1790, and it has ever since 
been doing the same quiet sleepy trade. It cannot under- 
stand what Kammerer's means by it. Kamnierer's is the 
refreshment-house at the corner, which has long since 
escaped from the chrysalis state of coffee-shop, and now, 
resplendent with plate-glass and mahogany bar, cooks 
joints, and draws the celebrated " Crm Grvv " Llangollen 
ale, and is filled with a perpetual stream of clattering junior 
clerks from the adjacent warehouses. The Crown — accord- 
ing to its proprietor, in whose family its lease has been 
vested since its establishment — don't do no thin' of this 
sort, and don't want to. It still regards chops and steaks 
as the most delicious of human food, and tea and coffee as 
the only beverages by which their consumption should be 
accompanied. Across its window still stretches an illumin- 
ated blind representing an Italian gentleman putting off 
in a boat with apparently nothing more serviceable for 
navigation purposes than a blue banjo ; and it still makes a 
gorgeous display of two large coffee-cups and saucers, with 
one egg in a blue egg-cup between them. Its interior is 



14 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET 

still cut up into brown boxes with hard narrow seats, on 
which you must either sit bolt upright, or fall off at once ; 
its narrow old tables are scarred and notched and worm- 
eaten ; and it holds yet by its sawdusted floor. 

About seven o'clock in the evening of the same day on 
which Inspector Stellfox had consulted Mr Moss, the green- 
baize door of the Crown was gently swung open, and a man 
slinking in dived into the nearest box then vacant. He 
was a young fellow of not more than three -and-twenty, 
with well-cut regular features, and who would have been 
handsome had not his complexion been so sallow and his 
cheeks so pinched. His gaunt attenuated frame, thin 
hands, and eyes of unnatural brightness and restlessness, 
all told of recent illness ; and though it was summer time 
his threadbare coat was tightly buttoned round his throat, 
and he shivered as he seated himself, and looked hungrily 
at the cooking-fire burning in the kitchen at the other 
end of the shop. After furtively glancing round him he 
beckoned the proprietor, gave him an order for some small 
refreshment, and then taking down an old volume of the 
Gentleman's Magazine from a neighbouring shelf, began to 
turn over its pages in a listless, purposeless manner. While 
he was thus engaged, the green-baize door swung open 
again, admitting a portly man with a child's hat perched on 
the top of his round head, who, walking into the middle of 
the shop, ordered from that post of vantage " a large cup of 
coffee and a rasher," then looked round the difl'erent boxes, 
and finally settled himself with his back to the light in that 
box where the last arrival was seated. The portly man 
made the other visitor a very polite bow, which was scarcely 
returned, and the first comer bent more earnestly over his 
book and shrouded his face with his hand. But the portly 
man, who was no other than Inspector Stellfox, had been 
too long in his profession not to know his business thoroughly, 
and so he hung up the child's hat on a peg immediately 
over his friend's head, and he took hold of a newspaper 
which lay directly under his friend's elbow ; and taking ad- 
vantage of each opportunity to look his friend over and over, 
saw that he was on the right track, and thoroughly made 
up his mind what to do when the chance arrived. The 



NEWS. ] 5 

chance arrived simultaneously with the refreshment ordered 
by the haggard man : he had to put down his hand to reach 
the tray, and in so doing his eyes met those of the inspector, 
who at once winked and laid his finger on his lip. 

" Mr Mitford ? " said he in a fat voice ; " ah ! I thought 
so. No, you don't, sir," he continued, pushing back the 
man, who had attempted to start up ; " it's all right ; that 
little matter at Canterbury's been squared up long since. I 
wanted to see you about something else. Look here, sir ; " 
and the inspector took from his pocket-book a printed slip 
of paper, and handed it across the table to his companion, 
who read as follows : 

"Fatal and Appalling Accident. 

" We (Bridgewater Mercwry) deeply regret to hear that 
a telegram has been received from Malta stating that Sir 
Percy Mitford of Redmoor near this town, and his two sons, 
aged twelve and nine, were drowned by the upsetting of a 
little boat in which they were proceeding to Sir Percy's 
well-known yacht Enchantress, then anchored off Valetta. 
By this dreadful accident the title and estates pass into 
another branch of the family ; the heir being Sir Percy's 
nephew, Mr Charles "Wentworth Mitford, now studying 
abroad." 

" There, sir ! there's news for you ! " said Inspector 
Stellfox ; " we know what studying abroad means, don't 
we ? ¥e knows — " but Inspector Stellfox stopped sud- 
denly ; for his companion, after glaring at him vacantly for 
an instant with the paper outstretched in his rigid hand, 
fell forward in a fit. 



CHAPTER II. 



MORE NEWS. 



Twexty years ago the Maecenas Club, which is now so 
immensely popular, and admission to which is so difficult, 



16 ecxxixc the gauntlet. 

was a very quiet unpretending little place, rather looked down 
upon and despised by the denizens of the marble palaces 
in Pall Mall and the old fogies in St James's Street. The 
great gaunt stuccoed mansion, with the bust of Maecenas 
in the big hall, then was not ; the Club was held at a 
modest little house, only differing from a private residence 
in the size of its fanlight, in the fact of its having a double 
flight of steps (delicious steeple-chase ground for the youth 
of the neighbourhood), and from its hall-door being always 
open, typical of the hospitality and good-fellowship which 
reigned within. Ah ! a glorious place in those days, the 
Maecenas ! which, as it stated in its prospectus, was estab- 
lished " for the patronage of literature and the drama, and 
the bringing together of gentlemen eminent in their re- 
spective circles ; " but which wisely left literature, the 
drama, and the eminent gentlemen to take care of them- 
selves, and simply brought together the best and most club- 
bable fellows it could get hold of. There was something in 
the little M., as the members fondly abbreviated its name, 
which was indescribably comfortable and unlike any other 
club. The waiters were small men, which perhaps had 
something to do with it ; there was no billiard-room, with 
noisy raffish frecruenters ; no card-room, with solemn one- 
idea'd fogies ; no drawing-room for great hulking men to 
lounge about, and put up their dirty boots on yellow satin 
sofas. There was a capital coffee-room, strangers'-room, 
writing-room, reading-room, and the best smoking-room in 
London ; a smoking-room whence came three-fourths of the 
best stories which permeated society, and whither was 
brought every bit of news and scandal so soon as it was 
hatched. There was a capital chef, who was too true an 
artist to confine himself to made-dishes, but who looked 
after the joints and toothsome steaks, for which the M. had 
such a reputation ; and there was a capital cellar. Further- 
more, the members believed in all this, and believed in- 
tensely in one another. 

That a dislike to clubs is strongly rooted in the female 
breast is not a mere aphorism of the comic writer, but is a 
serious fact. This feeling would be much mitigated, if not 
entirely eradicated, one would think, if women could only 



MORE NEWS. 17 

know the real arcana of those much-loathed establishments. 
Life -wants something more than good entrees and wine, 
easy-chairs, big waiters, and a place to smoke in : it wants 
companionship and geniality — two qualities which are very 
rare in the club-world. Tou scowl at the man at the next 
table, and he scowls at you in return ; the man who wants 
the magazine retained by your elbow growls out something, 
and you, raising your arm, growl in reply. In the smoking- 
room there is indeed an attempt at conversation, which is 
confined to maligning human nature in general, and the 
acquaintance of the talkers in particular ; and as each man 
leaves the room his character is wrested from him at the 
door, and torn to shreds by those who remain. 

It was its very difference from all these that made the 
Maecenas so pleasant. Everybody liked everybody else, and 
nobody objected to anybody. It was not too pleasant to 
hear little Mr Tocsin, Q.C., shrieking some legal question 
across the coffee-room to a brother barrister ; to have your 
mackerel breathed over by Tom O'Blather, as he narrated 
to you a Foreign-Office scandal, in which you had not the 
smallest interest ; to have to listen to Dr M'Q-ollop's French 
jokes told in a broad-Scotch accent, or to Tim Dwyer's 
hunting exploits with his " slash'n meer ; " but one bore 
these things at the M., and bore them patiently. How 
proud they were of their notable members in those days ; 
not swells, but men who had distinguished themselves by 
something more than length of whisker and shortness of 
head — the very " gentlemen eminent in their respective 
circles " of the prospectus ! They were proud, and justly 
so, of Mr Justice Ion, whose kindly beaming face, bright 
eye, and short-cropped gray hair would often be seen 
amongst them ; of Smielding and Follett, the two great 
novelists of the day, each of whom had his band of sworn 
retainers and worshippers ; of Tatterer, the great tragedian, 
who would leave King Lear's robes and be the delight of 
the Maecenas smoke-room ; of Gilks the marine-painter ; of 
Clobber, who was so great in cathedral interiors ; and Mark- 
ham, afterwards the great social caricaturist, then just com- 
mencing his career as a wood-draughtsman. The very 
reciprocity of regard was charming for the few swells who 

2 



18 EUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

at that time cared for membership ; they were immensely 
popular ; and amongst them none so popular as Colonel 
Laurence Alsager, late of the Coldstream Guards. 

By the time that Laurence Alsager was gazetted as cap- 
tain and lieutenant-colonel, he had had quite enough of 
regimental duty, quite enough of transition from Portman 
Barracks to Wellington Barracks, from Winchester to 
Windsor ; quite enough of trooping the guard at St James's 
and watching over the treasures hidden away in the Bank- 
cellars ; of leaning out of the little window in the old 
Guards Club in St James's Street ; quite enough of Derby 
drags and iallet balls, and Byde pier and Cowes regatta, 
and Scotch moor and Norway fishery, and Leamington 
steeple-chase and Limmer's, and all those things which make 
up the life of a properly-regulated guardsman. The younger 
men in the Household Brigade could not understand this 
" having had quite enough." They thought him the most 
enviable fellow in the world. They dressed at him, they 
walked like him, they grew their whiskers as nearly like 
his as they could (mutton-chop whiskers were then the 
fashion, and beards and moustaches were only worn by 
foreign fiddlers and cavalry regiments), they bragged of him 
in every possible way, and one of them having heard him 
spoken of, from the variety of his accomplishments, as the 
Admirable Crichton, declared that he was infinitely better 
than Crichton, or any other admiral that had ever been in 
the sister service. The deux-temps valse had just been im- 
ported in those days, and Alsager danced it with a long, 
quick, swinging step which no one else could accomplish ; 
he played the cornet almost as well as Koenig ; while at 
Windsor he went into training and beat the Hammersmith 
Flyer, a professional brought down by the envious to de- 
grade him, in a half-mile race with twelve flights of hurdles; 
he was a splendid amateur actor ; and had covered the 
rough walls of the barrack-room at Windsor with capital 
caricatures of all his brother officers. He knew all the mys- 
teries of " battalion drill " too, and had been adjutant of 
the regiment. When, therefore, he threw up his commis- 
sion and sold out, everybody was utterly astonished, and 
all sorts of rumours were at once put into circulation. He 



MORE NEWS. 19 

had had a quarrel with his governor, old Sir Peregrine 
Alsager, some said, and left the army to spite him. He 
was bitten with a theatrical mania, and going to turn 
actor (" "Was he, by G- — ! " said Ledger, the light comedian, 
hitherto his warmest admirer ; " we want none of your 
imitation mock -turtle on the boards ! ") ; he had got a 
religious craze, and was going to become a Trappist monk ; 
he had taken to drinking ; he had lost his head, and was 
with a keeper in a villa in St John's "Wood. All these 
things were said about him by his kind friends ; but it is 
probable that none of them were so near the mark as honest 
Jock M'Laren, of the Scots Fusiliers, a great gaunt 
Scotchman, but the very best ferret in the world in certain 
matters ; who said, " Te may depen' upon it there's a 
wummin in it. Awlsager's a deevil among the sax ; and 
there's a wummin in it, I'll bet a croon." This was a 
heavy stake for Jock, and showed that he was in earnest. 
Be this as it may, how that Laurence Alsager sold out 
from her Majesty's regiment of Coldstream Guards, and 
that he was succeeded by Peregrine Wilks (whose grand- 
father, par parenthese, kept a ham-and-beef shop in St 
Martin's Court), is it not written in the chronicles of the 
London Gazette ? Immediately after the business had been 
settled, Colonel Alsager left England for the Continent. 
He was heard of at Munich, at Berlin, at Vienna (where 
he remained for some considerable time), and at Trieste, 
where all absolute trace of him was lost, though it was be- 
lieved he had gone ofF in an Austrian Lloyds' steamer to 
the Piraeus, and that he intended travelling through Greece, 
the Holy Land, and Egypt, before he returned home. 
These were rumours in which only a very few people in- 
terested themselves ; society has too much to do to take 
account of the proceedings of its absent members ; and after 
two years had elapsed Laurence Alsager's name was almost 
forgotten, when, on a dull January morning, two letters 
from him arrived in London, — one addressed to the steward 
of the Maecenas ordering a good dinner for two for the next 
Saturday night at six ; the other to the Honourable George 
Bertram of the Eoreign Office, requesting that distinguished 
public servant to meet his old friend L. A. at the Maecenas, 



20 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

dine with him, and go with him afterwards to the Parthe- 
nium Theatre, where a new piece Avas announced. 

Honest Mr Turquand, the club steward, by nature a 
reticent man, and one immersed in perpetual calculation as 
to ways and means, gave his orders to the cook, but said 
never a word to any one else as to the contents of his letter. 
George Bertram, known among his colleagues at the 
Foreign Office as " Blab Bertram," from the fact that he 
never spoke to anybody unless spoken to, and even then 
seldom answered, was equally silent ; so that Colonel Al- 
sager's arrival at the Maecenas was thoroughly unexpected 
by the members. The trimly-shaved old gentlemen at the 
various tables stared with wonder, not unmixed with horror, 
at the long black beard which Alsager had grown during 
his absence. They thought he was some stranger who had 
entered the sacred precincts by mistake ; some even had a 
horrible suspicion that it might be a newly-elected man, 
whose beard had never been mentioned to the committee ; 
and it Avas not until they heard Laurence's clear ringing 
voice, and saw his eye light up with the old fire, that they 
recognized their long-absent friend. Then they crowded 
round him, and wanted to hear all his two-years' adven- 
tures and wanderings told in a breath ; but he laughingly 
shook them off, promising full particulars at a later period ; 
and went over to a small corner-table, which he had been 
accustomed to select before he went away, and which Mr 
Turquand had retained for him, where he was shortly 
joined by George Bertram. 

It is probable that no man on earth had a greater love 
for another than had George Bertram for Laurence Alsager. 
"When he saw his old friend seated at the table, his heart 
leapt within him, and a great knot rose in his throat ; but 
he was a thorough Englishman, so he mastered his feelings, 
and, as he gripped Laurence's outstretched hand, merely 
said, " How do ? " 

"My dear old George," said Laurence heartily, "what an 
age since we met ! How splendidly well you seem to be ! 
A little stouter, perhaps, but not aged a day. "Well, I've a 
thousand questions to ask, and a thousand things to tell 
you. What the deuce are you staring at ? " 



MORE NEWS. -!1 

" Beard ! " said Mr Bertram, who had never taken his 
eyes oft' Laurence's chin since he sat down opposite to 
him. 

'■ O, ah, yes ! " said Laurence. " That's a relic of savage 
life which I shall get rid of in a few days ; but I didn't like 
to have him oft* suddenly, on account of the change of cli- 
mate. I suppose it shocks the old gentlemen here ; but I 
can't help it. Well, now, you've got oceans of news to 
tell me. It's full a twelvemonth since I had letters from 
England ; not a line since I left Jerusalem ; and — ah, by 
Jove ! I've never told you how I happened to come in such 
a hurry It's horribly absurd and ridiculous, you know ; I 
hadn't the least idea of returning for at least another year. 
But one sultry evening, far up the Nile, as I was lying 
back in my kandjia, — boat, you know, — being towed up by 
three naked chaps, pulling away like grim death, we met 
another kandjia coming down. In it were two unmistak- 
able Englishmen ; fellows in all-round collars and stiff wide- 
awakes, with puggerees put on all the wrong way. They 
were chattering to each other ; and I thought, under that 
burning sky and solemn stillness, and surrounded by all 
the memorials of the past, they would probably be quoting 
Herodotus, or Gardner Wilkinson, or, better than all, 
Eothen ; but, just as they passed me, what do you think I 
heard one of them say to the other ? ' No, no, Jack,' said 
he, ' you're wrong there : it was Buckstone that played 
Box ! ' He did, by Jove ! Under the shadow of the Pyra- 
mids, and close by the Sphinx, and the vocal Memnon, and 
Cheops and Cephrenes, and all the rest of it, to hear of 
Buckstone and Box and Cox ! Tou can't tell the singular 
effect it had on me. I began to feel an awful longing for 
home ; what the Germans call Heimiveli came upon me at 
once. I longed to get back once more, and see the clubs 
and the theatres, and all the old life, which I had fled from 
so willingly ; and I ordered the Arabs to turn the boat 
round and get me back to Cairo as quickly as possible. 
When we got to Cairo, 1 went to Shepherd's, and found 
the house full of a lot of cadets and fellows going out ; and 
one of them had a Times, and in it I saw the announce- 
ment of the new piece at the Parthenium ; and, I don't know 



22 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

why, — I fixed upon that as a sort of date-mark, and I said, 
' I'll be back in England to see that first night ; ' and the 
next day I started for Alexandria. And on board the P.- 
and-O. boat I made the acquaintance of the post-office 
courier in charge of the Indian mail, a very good fellow, 
who, when he found my anxiety to get on, took me with 
him in his fourgon, brought me through from Marseilles to 
Calais without an instant's delay ; let me come on board 
the special boat waiting for him, and landed me at London 
Bridge last night, having got through my journey wonder- 
fully. And I'm in time for the first night at the Parthe- 
nium ; and — now tell me all your news." 

" Blab " Bertram had been dreading the command, which 
he knew involved his talking more in twenty minutes than 
he was in the habit of doing in a month. He had been 
delighted to hear Laurence rattling on about his own ad- 
ventures, and fondly hoped that he should avoid any 
revelations for that night at least. But the dread edict 
had been issued, and George knew his friend too well not 
to obey. . So he said with a sigh, drawing out a small note- 
book, " Tes, I knew you'd be naturally anxious to hear 
about people, and what had happened since you've been 
away ; and so, as I'm not much good at telling things, I 
got Alick G-eddes of our office — you know him, Lord 
M'Mull's brother — to put down some notes, and I'll read 
them to you." 

" That'll do, G-eorge," said Laurence, laughing ; " like 
the police, ' from information you have received,' eh ? 
Never mind, so long as I hear it. — Mr Turquand, they've 
not finished that bin of Thompson and Crofts' 20 during 
my absence ? No. Then bring us a bottle, please. — And 
now, G-eorge, fire away ! " 

Por the purposes of this story it would be needless to 
recount all the bits of scandal and chit-chat, interesting 
and amusing to those acquainted with the various actors in 
the drama, bat utterly vapid to every one else, which the com- 
bined memories of Messrs Alexander Geddes and George 
Bertram, clerks in the Poreign Office, and gentlemen goin°- 
a great deal into all kinds of society, had furbished up and 
put together for the delectation of Colonel Alsager. It was 



MOKE NEWS. 28 

the old, old story of London life, known to every one, and, 
mutatis nominihis, narrated of so many people. Tom's 
marriage, Dick's divorce, and Harry's going to the bad. 
Jack Considine left the service, and become sheep-farmer 
in Australia. Little Tim Stratum, of the Treasury, son of 
old Dr Stratum the geologist, marrying that big Indian 
widow woman, and becoming a heavy swell, with a house in 
Grosvenor Square. Ned "Walters dead, — lit of heart dis- 
ease, or some infernal thing, — dead, by Jove ; and that 
pretty wife of his, and all those nice little children, gone — 
God knows where ! Lady Cecilia married ? Oh, yes ; and 
she and Townshend get on very well, they say ; but that 
Italian chap, Di Varese, with the black beard and the tenor 
voice, always hanging about the house. Gertrude Netherby 
rapidly becoming an old woman, thin as a whipping-post, by 
George ! and general notion of nose-and-chinniness. Flor- 
ence Sackville, as lovely and as jolly as ever, was asking 
after you only last night. These and a hundred other 
little bits of gossip about men in his old regiment, and 
women, reputable and disreputable, formerly of his acquaint- 
ance, of turf matters and club scandals, interspersed with 
such anecdotes, seasoned with gros sel, as circulate when 
the ladies have left the dinner-table, did Laurence Alsager 
listen to ; and when George Bertram stopped speaking and 
shut up his note-book, he found himself warmly compli- 
mented on his capital budget of news by his recently-ar- 
rived friend. 

" You've done admirably, old fellow," said Laurence. 
" Ton my oath I don't think there's hardly any one we 
know that you haven't had something pleasantly unpleasant 
to say about. Now," taking out his watch, "we must be 
off to the theatre, and we've just time to smoke a cigarette 
as we walk down there. Tou took the two stalls ? " 

" Well — no," replied George Bertram, hesitating rather 
suspiciously ; " I only took one for you ; I — I'm going — 
that is — I've got a seat in a box." 

" George, you old vagabond, you don't mean to say 
you're going to desert me the first night I come back ? " 

" Well, I couldn't help it. Tou see I Avas engaged to 
go with these people before you wrote ; and — " 



24 



EUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



" Ail right ; what people are they ? " 

" The Mitfords." 

" Mitfords ? Connais pas.'" 

" Oh, yes ; you know them fast enough ; Oh, I forgot — 
all since you left ; only just happened." 

" Look here, George : I've had quite enough of the 
Sphinx during the last six months, and I don't want any of 
the enigma business. What has only just happened ? " 

" Mitford — and all that. You'll give me no peace till I 
tell you. Tou recollect Mitford ? with us at Oxford — ■ 
Brasenose man, not Christ Church." 

" Mitford, Mitford ! Oh, I recollect ; big, fair man, 
goodish-looking. His father failed and smashed up ; didn't 
he ? and our man went into a line regiment. Oh, by Jove, 
yes ! and came to grief about mistaking somebody else's 
name for his own, and backing a bill with it ; didn't he ? 
at Canterbury, or somewhere where he was quartered ? " 

" Same man. Had to leave service, and came to awful 
grief. Han away, and nothing heard of him. His uncle, 
Sir Percy, and two little boys drowned off Malta, and title 
came to our man. Couldn't find him anywhere ; at last 
some Jew lawyer was employed, put detectives on, and 
hunted up Mitford, nearly starved, in some public in Wap- 
ping, or somewhere in the East-end. "When he heard what 
a swell he'd become, he had a fit, and they thought he'd 
die. But he's been all square ever since ; acted like a 
gentleman ; went down to the place in Devonshire where 
his people lived before the smash ; married the clergyman's 
daughter to whom he had been engaged in the old days ; 
and they've just come up to town for the winter." 

" Married the clergyman's daughter to whom he bad been 
engaged in the old days, eh ? George Bertram, I saw a 
blush mantle on your ingenuous cheek, sir, when you al- 
luded to the lady. What is she like? " 

" Stuff, Laurence ! you did nothing of the kind. Lady 
Mitford is a very delightful woman." 

" Caramba, Master George ! If I were Sir Mitford, and 
heard you speak of my lady in that earnest manner, I should 
keep a sharp eye upon you. So you've not improved in 
that respect." 



MOKE NEWS. Zo 

George Bertram, whose amourettes were of the most in- 
nocent description, but to accuse whom of the wildest 
profligacy was a favourite joke with his friends, blushed 
deeper than ever, and only littered an indignant ' ; Too bad, 
too bad ! " 

'■' Come along, sir,*' said Laurence : " I'll sit in the silent 
solitude of the stalls while you are basking in beauty in a 
box." 

'•But you'll come up and be introduced, Laurence ? " 
'* Xot I. thank you ; I'll leave the field clear for you." 
" But Sir Charles Mitford would be so glad to renew his 
old acquaintance with you." 

■• Would he ? Then Sir Charles Mitford must reserve 
that delight for another occasion. I shall be here after 
the play, and we can have a further talk if you can descend 
to mundane matters after your felicity. Xow come along." 
And thev strolled out together. 



CHAPTEE III. 

AT THE PARTHEXIUM. 



The Parthenium Theatre at the time I write of was a thing 
by itself. Since then there have been a score of imitations 
of it, none of them coming up to the great original, but 
sufficiently like to have dimmed the halo surrounding the 
first attempt, and to have left the British public undecided 
as to whom belonged the laurels due to those who first at- 
tempted to transform a wretched, dirty, hot building into 
an elegant, well-ventilated, comfortable salon. It was at 
the Parthenium that stalls were first introduced. I"p to 
that time they had been only known at the Opera ; and it 
was the triumph of the true British playgoer. — the man 
who had seen Jack Bannister, sir. and Munden and Dowton, 
and all those true performers who have never had aDy suc- 
cessor, sir, — that he always sat in the front row of the pit, 
the only place in the house whence the performance could 



26 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

be properly seen. When Mr Prank Likely undertook the 
lesseeship of the Parthenium, he thought he saw his way to 
a very excellent improvement founded on this basis. He 
hated the true British playgoer with all his heart. In the 
style of entertainment about to be produced at the Par- 
thenium, he had not the smallest intention of pandering to, 
or even propitiating, the great historic character ; but he 
had perfect readiness to see that the space immediately be- 
hind the orchestra was the most valuable in the theatre ; 
and so he set carpenters at once to work, and uprooted the 
hard black deal pit-benches, and erected in their stead rows 
of delicious fauteuils in crimson velvet, broad soft padded- 
backed lounges with seats which turned upon hinges, and 
left a space underneath for your hat and coat ; charming 
nests where you could loll at your ease, and see and hear 
to perfection. The true British playgoer was thus relegated 
to a dark and dismal space underneath the dress-circle, 
where he could see little save the parting of the back-hair 
of the swells in the stalls, and the legs, from the knee 
downward, and feet of the people on the stage ; where the 
ceiling seemed momentarily descending on him, as on the 
prisoner in the story of the " Iron Shroud ; " and where 
the knees of the orange-sellers dug him in the back, while 
their baskets banged him in front. It is needless to say 
that on the Saturday after the opening of the Parthenium 
under the new regime, the columns of the Curtain, the 
Thespian Waggoner, and the Scourge were found brimming 
over with stinging letters from the true British playgoer, 
all complaining of his treatment, and all commencing, " By 
what right, sir, I should like to know." But Mr Prank 
Likely cared little enough for this, or for anything else in- 
deed, so long as he could keep up his villa at Eoehampton, 
have his Sunday parties, let his wife dress like a duchess, 
have two or three carriages, and never be compelled to pay 
anybody anything. JSTot to pay was a perfect mania with 
him. Not that he had not the money. Mr Humphreys, 
the treasurer, used to come round about half-past ten with 
bags of gold and silver, which were duly deposited in Mr 
Likely's dressing-room, and thence transferred to his car- 
riage by his dresser, a man whose pound-a-week wages had 



AT THE PARTHENIUM. 27 

been due for a mouth ; but if ever he were to ask for a 
settlement Mr Likely would look at him with a comic sur- 
prise, give a short laugh, say, " He, he ! you don't mean it, 
Evans ; I haven't a fourpenny-piece ; " and step into the 
brougham to be bowled away through the summer night to 
lamb-cutlets and peas and Sillery Mousseux at the Eoe- 
hampton villa, with a prime cigar on the lawn or under the 
conservatory afterwards. He took the money, though he 
never paid any one, and no one knew what became of it ; 
but when he went through the Court the Commissioner 
complimented him publicly, as he gave him his certificate, 
and told him in his private room that he, the Commissioner, 
had experienced such pleasure from Mr and Mrs Likely's 
charming talent, that he, the Commissioner, was really glad 
it lay in his power to make him, Mr Likely, some little 
return. 

It is, however, only in his position as lessee of the Par- 
thenium Theatre that we have to do with Mr Frank Likely, 
and therein he certainly was admirable. A man of com- 
mon-sense and education, he saw plainly enough that if he 
wished to amuse the public, he must show them something 
with which they were perfectly familiar. They yawned 
over the rage of Lear, and slept through Belvidera's recital 
of her woes ; the mere fact of Captain Absolute's wear- 
ing powder and breeches precluded their taking any in- 
terest in his love affairs ; but as soon as they were shown 
people such as they were accustomed to see, doing things 
which they themselves were accustomed to do, ordinarily 
dressed, and moving amongst ordinary surroundings, they 
were delighted, and flocked in crowds to the Partheniuhi. 
Mr Likely gave such an entertainment as suited the taste 
of his special visitors. The performances commenced at 
eight with some trifle, during the acting of which the box- 
doors were perpetually banging, and early visitors to the 
stalls were carefully stamped upon and ground against by 
the club-diners steadily pushing their way to their seats. 
The piece of the evening commenced about nine and lasted 
till half-past ten ; and then there came forty minutes of a 
brilliant burlesque, with crowds of pretty coryphees, volleys 
of rattling puns and parodies, crackling allusions to popular 



>8 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



topics, and resplendent scenery by Mr Coverflats, the great 
scenic artist of the day. "When it is recollected that though 
only two or three of the actors were really first-rate, yet 
that all were far above the average, being dressed under Mr 
Likely's eye, and taught every atom of their " business ; " 
that the theatre was thoroughly elegant, and unlike any 
other London house in its light-blue-and-gold decorations 
and airy muslin curtains, and that its foyer and lobbies were 
happy meeting-grounds for wits and men of fashion, — no 
wonder that '■ first-nights " at the Parthenium were looked 
forward to with special delight. 

On the occasion on which Colonel Alsager and Mr Ber- 
tram were about to be present, a more than ordinary 
amount of curiosity prevailed. For some weeks it had been 
vaguely rumoured that the new comedy, Tried in the Fur- 
nace, about to be produced, was written by Spoffortb, that 
marvellous fellow who combined the author with the man of 
fashion, who was seen everywhere, at the Premieress's re- 
ceptions, at the first clubs, always associating with the best 
people, and who flavoured his novels and his plays in the 
most piquante manner with reproductions of characters and 
stories well known in the London world. It was rumoured 
that in Tried in the Furnace the plot strongly resembled the 
details of a great scandal in high life, which had formed the 
platde resistance of the gossips of the previous season ; and 
it w r as also said that the hero, an officer in the Guards, 
would be played by Dacre Pontifex, who at that time had 
turned all women's heads who went regularly into society, 
and who, to a handsome face and figure and a thoroughly 
gentlemanly bearing, seemed to add great natural histrionic 
genius. 

All these reports, duly set afloat in the various theatrical 
journals, and amongst the particular people who think and 
talk of nothing else but the drama and its professors,— a 
set permeating every class of society, — had whetted the 
public appetite to an unparalleled amount of keenness ; and 
long before its representation, all the retainable stalls, boxes, 
and seats generally, for the first night of Tried in the Fur- 
nace had been secured. The gallery-people were certain to 
come in, because Mugger, the low comedian, had an ex- 



AT THE PARTHENJUM. 29 

ceedingly humorous part, and the gallery worshipped 
Mugger; and the diminished area of the pit would proba- 
bly be . thronged, as it had been whispered in the columns 
of the ticourgc that the new play was reported to contain 
several hits at the aristocracy, invariably a sure " draw " 
with the pittites. It was only of the upper boxes that the 
manager felt doubtful ; and for this region he accordingly 
sent out several sheaves of orders, which were duly pre- 
sented on the night by wild weird-looking women, with 
singular head-dresses of scraps of lace and shells, dresses 
neither high nor low, grimy gloves too long in the fingers, 
and bonnets to be left with the custodian. 

It was a great night ; there could be no doubt of that ; 
Humphreys had said so, and when Humphreys so far com- 
mitted himself, he was generally right. Humphreys was 
Mr Likely's treasurer, confidential man, factotum. He 
stood at the front of the theatre to receive the important 
people, — notably the press, — to settle discord, to hint what 
was the real strength of the forthcoming piece, to beg a 
little indulgence for Miss Satterthwaite's hoarseness, or for 
the last scene of the second act, which poor Coverflats, 
worn off his legs, had scarcely had time to finish. He 
knew exactly to whom to bow, with whom to shake hands. 
He knew exactly where to plant the different representa- 
tives of the press, keeping up a proper graduation, yet 
never permitting any critic to think that he was not 
sufficiently honoured. He knew when to start the applause, 
when to hush the house into silence. Better than all, he 
knew where to take Mr Likely's acceptances to get them 
discounted ; kept an account of the dates, and paid the re- 
newal fees out of the previous night's receipts. An in- 
valuable man Humphreys ; a really wonderful fellow ! 

When Laurence Alsager flung away the end of his cigar- 
ette under the Parthenium portico, and strolled leisurely 
into the house, he found Humphreys standing in exactly the 
same position in which he had last seen him two years 
since ; and he almost quailed as, delivering up his ticket, he 
returned the treasurer's bow, and thanked him for his wel- 
come. " Grlad to see you back, Colonel. Something worth 
showing to you to-night ! " and then Laurence laughed 



30 RUOTTNG THE GAUNTLET. 

outright. He had been away for two years ; he had seen 
the Sphinx and the Pyramids, and all the wonders of the 
East, to say nothing of the European continent ; and here 
was a man congratulating himself that in a three-act tinpot 
play they had something worthy of his observation. So he 
nodded and laughed, and passed on into the theatre. Well, 
if there were no change in Humphreys, there was little 
enough in any one else. There they were, all the old set : 
half-a-dozen newspaper critics dotted over the front rows 
of the stalls ; two or three attached to the more important 
journals in private boxes ; celebrated author surrounded by 
his family in private box ; other celebrated author scowling 
by himself in orchestra stall ; two celebrated artists who 
always came to first-nights amusing themselves by talking 
about art before the curtain goes up ; fat man with vulgar 
wife with wreath of roses in her head, — aMerman, whole- 
sale stationer, said to be Mr Erank Likely's backer, in best 
stage-box ; opposite stage-box being reserved by Jewish old 
party, landlord of the theatre, and now occupied by the 
same, asleep and choking. Lady springe of course, with 
(equally of course) the latest lion of the day by her side — 
on this occasion a very little man, with long fair hair, who, 
as Laurence afterwards learned, had written a poem all 
about blood and slaughter. The Duke and Duchess of 
Tantallan, who are mad about private theatricals, who have 
turned the old northern feudal castle into an uncomfort- 
able theatre, and whose most constant guests are little 
Hyams (the costumier) and Jubber (' heavy old man ') of 
the Cracksideum Theatre, who ' gets up ' the duke's plays. 
Sir Gerald Spoonbill and Lord Otho Eaulconbridge, jolly 
old boys, flushed with hastily-eaten dinner at Foodie's, but 
delighting in the drama; the latter especially having in- 
herited taste for it, his mother having been — well, you 
know all about that. That white waistcoat which glistens 
in the stalls could belong to no one but Mr Marshall Moss, 
next to whom sit on either side Mr Gompertz, the stock- 
jobber, and Mr Sergeant Orson, the last-named having en- 
tertained the other gentlemen at a very snug little dinner 
at the Haresfoot Club. jSTor was pipe-clay wanting. The 
story of the plot, the intended character to be assumed by 



AT THE PARTHENIUM. 31 

Mr Pontifex, had been talked over at "Woolwich, at Bromp- 
ton, — where the sucking Indian heroes, men whose names 
long afterwards were household words during the Mutiny 
campaigns, were learning soldiering, — at the Senior and the 
Junior, and at the Rag, the members of which, awaiting the 
completion of their present palatial residence, then occupied 
a modest tenement in St James's Square. There was a 
boxful of Plungers, big, solemn, heavy men, with huge curl- 
ing moustaches, conspicuous among whom were Algy 
Forrester and Cis Hetherington of the Blues ; Markham 
Bowers of the Life Guards, who shot the militia-surgeon 
behind the windmill at Wimbledon ; and Dick Edie of the 
4th Dragoon Guards — Dick Edie, the solicitor's son, who 
afterwards ran away with Lady Florence Ormolu, third 
daughter of the house of Porphyry ; and on being reconciled 
and introduced to whom on a future occasion, the Dowager 
Countess of Porphyry was good enough to make the re- 
mark that she " had no idea the lower orders were so 
clean." 

Where are ye now, lustrous counts, envied dandies of 
that bygone time ? Algy Forrester, thirty -four inches 
round the girth, has a son at Oxford, breeds fat sheep, and 
is only seen in London at cattle-show time. Cis Hether- 
ington, duly heralded at every outlawry proclamation, lies 
perdu in some one of the barren islands forming the 
Hebrides cluster. Markham Bowers fell in the Balaklava 
charge, pierced through and through by Cossack spearmen ; 
and Major-general Richard Edie, M.P., is the chief adviser 
and the trusted agent of his mother-in-law, the Dowager 
Countess of Porphyry. In the next box, hiding behind the 
muslin curtains, and endeavouring to hide her convulsions 
of laughter behind her fan, sat little Pauline Desiree, pre- 
miere danseuse at the Opera Comique, with Harry Lindon 
of the Coldstreams, and Prothero of the Foreign Office, 
and Tom Hodgson the comic writer ; none of them one 
atom changed, all of them wonder-struck at the man in the 
big beard, all of them delighted at suddenly recognizing in 
him an old friend, not much thought of perhaps during his 
absence, as is the way of the world, but certainly to be 
welcomed now that he was once more among them. 



32 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

ISTot one atom changed ; all of them just the same. 
What were his two years of absence, his wanderings in 
burning solitudes, or amongst nomadic tribes ? His sudden 
rushing away had been undertaken with a purpose ; and 
whether that purpose had been fulfilled was known to him- 
self alone. He rather thought it had, as, without an extra 
heart-beat, he looked into a box on the pit- tier, and his 
grave face flashed into a sardonic grin as his eyes lit on the 
bald forehead and plaited shirt-frill of an elderly gentleman, 
instead of the light-chestnut bands and brilliant bust which 
once reigned dominant there on every " first night." But 
all the others were just the same ; even the people he did 
not know were exactly like those whom he had left, and 
precisely answered to those whom he should have expected 
to find there. No, not all. The door of a box on the 
grand tier next the dress-circle opened with a clang, and a 
lady whom he had never seen before, coming to the front, 
settled herself opposite the corner in the stage. The noise 
of the door attracted the attention of the house ; and 
Yentus, then playing his celebrated cornet-solo in the 
overture, cursed the interruption ; a whisper ran round the 
stalls ; the arrival was telegraphed to the Guards' box : 
this must be some star that had risen on the horizon since 
Laurence's absence. Ah, there is Blab Bertram at the 
back of the box ! This, then, must be Lady Mitford ! 

She was apparently about twenty, and, so far as could be 
judged from her sitting position, tall and slight. Her com- 
plexion was red and white, beaiitifully clear, — the white 
transparent, the red scarlet, — and her features regular ; 
small forehead, straight Grecian nose, very short upper-lip, 
and mouth small, with lips rather thin than pouting. Her 
dark-brown hair (fortunately at that time it was not con- 
sidered necessary for beauty to have a red head), taken off 
behind the ears in two tight bands, showed the exquisite 
shape of her head, which was very small, and admirably 
fitted on the neck, the only fault of which was its excess in 
length. She was dressed entirely in white, with a green 
necklace, and a tiny wreath of green ivy-leaves was inter- 
twined among the braids into which her hair was fastened 
at the back of her head. She took her seat gracefully, but 



AT THE PARTHBNIUM. ob 

looked round, as Laurence noticed, with a certain air of 
strangeness, as though unaccustomed to such scenes ; then 
immediately turned her eyes, not on the other occupants of 
the theatre, not on the stage, nor on George Bertram, who, 
after some apparent demur, took the front seat opposite to 
her, but towards a tall man, who relieved her of her cloak, 
and handed her a fan, and in whom Alsager recognized the 
Charles Mitford of his Oxford days. A good realization of 
Tennyson's iSir Walter Vivian, — 

" No little lily-handed baronet he ; 
A stout broad-shouldered genial Englishman," — 

was Sir Charles Mitford, with strongly-marked, well-cut 
features, bright blue eyes, curling reddish-brown hair, large 
light breezy whiskers, and a large mouth gleaming with 
sound white teeth. The sort of man who, you could tell at 
a glance, would have a very loud hearty laugh, would grip 
your hand until your fingers ached, would be rather awkward 
in a room, but who would never flinch across country, and 
never grow tired among the turnips or over the stubble. An 
unmistakable gentleman, but one to whom a shooting-coat 
and gaiters would be more becoming than the evening-dress 
he then wore, and who evidently felt the moral and physical 
restraint of his white choker, from the way in which he oc- 
casionally tugged at that evidence of civilization. Shortly 
after they had settled themselves, the curtain went up, and 
all eyes were turned to the stage ; but Laurence noticed 
that Lady Mitford was seated so as to partly lean against 
her husband, while his left hand, resting on her chair-back, 
occasionally touched the braids of her hair. George Ber- 
tram seemed to be entirely overlooked by his companions, 
and was able to enjoy his negative pleasure of holding his 
tongue to the fullest extent. 

They were right who had said that Spofforth had put 
forth all his power in the new piece, and had been even more 
than usually personal. The characters represented were, an 
old peer, wigged, rouged, and snuff-box bearing, one of 
those wonderful creations which have never been seen on 
the English stage since Tan-en left it ; his young wife, a 
dashing countess, more frequently in a riding-habit than 



34 KUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

anything else, with a light jewel-hanoled whip, with which 
she cut her male friends over the shoulders or poked them 
in the ribs, — as is, we know, the way of countesses in real 
life ; a dashing young cavalry-officer very much smitten with 
the countess, excellently played by Dacre Pontifex, who 
admirably contrived to do two things at the same time — to 
satisfy the swells by his representation of one of their 
class, — " Doosid good thing ; not like usual dam cawick- 
aehaw," they said, — and simultaneously to use certain 
words, phrases, and tones, to fall into certain attitudes and 
use certain gestures, all of which were considered by the 
pittites as a mockery of the aristocracy, and were delighted 
in accordingly. It being an established fact that no play at 
the Parthenium could go down without Mugger the low 
comedian, and there being in the " scandal in high life," 
which Spofforth had taken for his plot, no possible character 
which Mugger could have portrayed, people were Avoudering 
what would be done for him. The distribution of the other 
characters had been apparent to all ever since it was known 
that Spofforth had the story in hand : of course Parren 
would be the marquis, and Miss Amabel the marchioness 
(Spofforth had lowered his characters one step in rank, and 
removed the captain from the Guards to the cavalry — a 
great stroke of genius), and Pontifex the military lover. 
But what could be done for Mugger ? The only other cha- 
racter in the real story, the man by whom the intrigue was 
found out, and all the mischief accidentally caused, was a 
simple old clergyman, vicar of the parish close by my lord's 
country estate, and of course they could not have intro- 
duced a clergyman on to the stage, even if Mugger could 
have played the part. This was a poser. At first Mugger 
proposed that the clergyman should be turned into a 
Quaker, when he could appear in broad-brim and drab, call 
everybody " thee," and snuffle through his nose ; but this 
was overruled. At last Spofforth hit upon a happy idea : 
the simple old clergyman should be turned into a garrulous 
mischief-making physician ; and when Mugger appeared at 
the back of the stage, wonderfully " made up " in a fluffy 
white hat, and a large shirt-frill protruding from his waist- 
coat, exactly like a celebrated London doctor of the day, 



AT THE PARTHENITTM. 3o 

whose appearance was familiar to all, the shouts of delight 
rose from every part of the house. This, with one excep- 
tion, was the hit of the evening ; the exception was when 
the captain, in a letter to his beloved, writes, " Fly, fly with 
me ! These arms once locked round you, no blacksmith 
shall break them asunder." Xow this was an expression 
which had actually been used by the lover in the ' : scandal 
in high life," and had been made immense fun of by the 
counsel in the trial which ensued, and by the Sunday news- 
papers in commenting on that trial. When, therefore, the 
phrase was spoken by Pontifex in his most telling manner, 
it created first a thrill of astonishment at the author's 
daring, then a titter, then a tremendous roar of laughter 
and applause. Mr Frank Likely, who was standing at the 
wing when he heard this, nodded comfortably at Spoftbrtb, 
who was in the opposite stage-box anxiously watching the 
effect of every line ; and the latter shut up his glass, like 
the Duke of "Wellington at Waterloo, and felt that the 
battle was won. '■ It was touch-and-go, my boy," Likely 
said to the author afterwards ; ' : one single hitch in that 
speech, and the whole thing would have been goosed off the 
stage." 

There were, however, a few people in the theatre who 
were not so intensely delighted with Mr Spoflbrth's ingenu- 
ity and boldness. Laurence Alsager, whose absence from 
England had ju'evented his hearing the original story, 
thought the whole play dreary enough, though he appreci- 
ated the art of Pontiles and the buffoonery of Mugger ; but 
the great roar of delight caught him in the middle of 
a yawn, and he looked round with astonishment to see how 
a very silly phrase could occasion such an amount of laugh- 
ter. Glancing round the house, his eyes fell upon Lady 
Mitford, and he saw that her cheeks were flushed, her looks 
downcast, and her lips compressed. She had been in the 
greatest wonderment, poor child, during the whole of the 
piece : the manners of the people represented were to her 
as strange as those of the Ashantees ; she heard her own 
language and did not understand it ; she saw men and 
women, apparently intended to be of her own nation and 
station, conducting themselves towards each other in a 



36 KUOTING THE GAUXTLET. 

manner she had never heard of, much less seen ; she fancied 
there had been a laxity of speech and morals pervading the 
play, but she only knew it when the roar of welcome to Mr 
Pontifex's hint about the blacksmith fell upon her ear. She 
had never heard the origin of the phrase, but her natural 
instinct told her it was coarse and gross ; she knew it 
from the manner in which her husband, unable to restrain 
a loud guffaw, ended with " Too bad, too bad, by Jove ! : ' 
She knew it by the manner in which Mr Bertram studiously 
turned his face away from her to the stage ; from the man- 
ner in which the ladies all round endeavoured to hide their 
laughter behind their fans, oblivious of the betrayal afforded 
by their shaking shoulders ; she knew it from the look of 
intense disgust in the face of that curious-looking bearded 
man in the stalls, whose glances her eyes met as she looked 
down. 

Tes, Laurence Alsager was as thoroughly disgusted as 
he looked, and that was saying much ; for he had the power 
of throwing great savageness of expression into his bright 
eyes and thin lips. Here had a sudden home-sickness, an 
indescribable longing, come upon him, and he had hurried 
back after two years' absence ; and now within half-a-dozen 
hours of his arrival he had sickened at the change. He 
hated the theatre, and the grinning fools who laughed at 
the immodest rubbish, and the grinning fools who uttered 
it ; he hated the conventionality of dress and living ; he 
could not stand going in Avith a regular ruck of people 
again, and having to conform to all their ways. He would 
cut it at once ; go down to Knockholt to-morrow, and slay 
a couple of days with Sir Peregrine just to see the old go- 
vernor, and then be off again to South America, to do 
prairies and bisons and that sort of thing. 

As he made this resolution, the curtain fell amidst a 
storm of applause, and rose again to show the actors in a 
row, bowing delightedly with their hands on their waist- 
coats ; Spofforth '• bowed his acknowledgments from a private 
box," and kissed his hand to Alsager, who returned the 
salute with a very curt nod, then rose and lefb the theatre. 
In the lobby he met the Mitford party, and was quietly 
slipping by when Sir Charles, after whispering to Bertram, 



AT THE PATCTTTENIUM. 37 

touched his shoulder, saying, " Colonel Alaager, let me 
renew our old acquaintance." There was no escape from 
this big man's cheery manner and outstretched hand, so 
Laurence, after an instant's admirably-feigned forgetfulncss, 
returned the grasp, saying, " Ah, Mitford, I think ? of 
Brasenose in the old days ? " 

u Yes, yes, to be sure ! All sorts of things happened since 
then, you know." 

" yes, of course ; though I've only been in England six 
hours, I've heard of your luck and the baronetcy George 
Bertram here is such a terrific talker, he couldn't rest until 
he had told me all the news." 

This set Sir Charles Mitford off into one of his great 
roars again, at the finish of which he said, " Let me intro- 
duce you to my wife ; she's just here with Bertram. — Here, 
G-eorgie darling, this is Colonel Alsager, an old acquaint- 
ance of mine." 

Of any one else Mitford would have said " an old 
friend ; " but as he spoke he glanced at Laurence's stern, 
grave expression, and changed the word. Perhaps the same 
feeling influenced Lady Mitford, as her bow was constrained, 
and her spirits, already depressed by the performance, were 
by no means raised by the introduction to this sombre 
stranger. 

Sir Charles tried to rally. " Hope we shall see some- 
thing of you, Alsager, now you're back. You'll find us in 
Eaton Place, and — " 

" You're very good ; but I shall leave town to-morrow, 
and probably England next week." 

Probably no man had ever been more astonished than 
was George Bertram as he stood by and heard this ; but, 
true to his creed, he said never a word. 

Ci Leave England ! " said Sir Charles. " Why, you've 
only just come back. You're only just — All right ; we're 
coming ! " This last in answer to roars of" Lady Mitford's 
carriage ! " surging up the stairs. " Thank you if you'll give 
my wife your arm." 

Lady Mitford accepted this courtesy very frigidly, just 
touching Laurence's arm with the tips of her fingers. After 
she had entered the brougham, Alsager stood back for Sir 



38 ETOTNING THE GAUNTLET. 

Charles to follow ; but the latter shut the door, saying, 
" Grood-night, Greorgie dear ; I shan't be late." 

" Oh, Charley, are you not coming with me?" she said. 

" No, dear, not just yet. Don't put on such a frightened 
face, G-eorgie, or Colonel Alsager will think I'm a perfect 
Blue-beard. I'm going to sup with Bligh and "Winton ; to 
be introduced to that fellow who acted so well, — Pontifex, 
you know. Shan't be late, dear. — Home, Daniells." 

And as the carriage drove off, Sir Charles Mitford, for- 
getting to finish his civil speeches to Laurence, shook hands 
Avith him and Bertram, and wishing them good-night, walked 
off with his companions. 

" Chaff or earnest," said Mr Bertram, when they were 
left alone, " going away again ? " 

" I don't know yet ; I can't tell j I've half a mind to — 
How horribly disappointed that little woman looked when 
that lout said he was going out to supper ! He is a lout, 
your friend, Greorge." 

" Cubbish ; don't know things yet ; wants training," 
jerked out Mr Bertram. 

" "Wants training, does he ? He'll get it soon enough 
if he consorts much with Bligh and Winton, and that set. 
They'll sharpen him." 

" Like Lady Mitford ? " said Bertram, interrogatively. 

" I think not ; I don't know. She seems a little rustic 
and missish at present. Let's come to the Club ; I want a 
smoke." 

But as they walked along, Laurence wrung some further 
particulars about Lady Mitford from his friend ; and as 
they ascended the club-steps, he said, " I don't think, if I 
had a pretty wife like that, I should leave her for the sake 
of passing my evening with Winton and Bligh, or even of 
being introduced to Mr Pontifex. Would you, Greorge ? " 

" Can't say. Never had one," was Mr Bertram's succinct 
reply. 



39 

CHAPTER IV 

IN THE SMOKING-ROOM. 

Among . the advantages upon which I have not sufficiently- 
dilated, the Maecenas Club had a smoking-room, of which 
the members were justly proud. Great improvements have 
been lately made ; but in those days the smoking-room was 
a novel ingredient in club-comfort, and its necessity was 
not sufficiently recognized. Old gentlemen, generally pre- 
dominant in clubs, were violently opposed to tobacco, save 
in the shape of the club snuff; regarded smoking as a sure 
sign of dissipation, if not of entirely perverted morality, 
and combined together in committee and out of committee 
to worry, harass, and annoy the devotees of the ciga,r. 
Consequently these last were in most clubs relegated to a 
big gaunt room at the top of the house, which had palpably 
been formed by the removal of the partition between two 
servants' attics, a room with bare walls, an oil-cloth-covered 
floor, like a hair-dresser's cutting-room, a few imitation- 
marble-topped tables, some Windsor chairs, and a slippery 
black-leather ottoman stuck against the wall. Thither, to 
that tremendous height, the waiter, humorously supposed 
to be devoted to the room, seldom penetrated ; and you sat 
and smoked your cigar, and sipped your gin-and-seltzer 
when you were lucky enough to get it, and watched your 
neighbour looming through a fog of his own manufacture 
in solemn silence. It required a bold man to penetrate to 
such howling wildernesses as the smoking-rooms of the Re- 
trenchment, the True Blue, and the No Surrender in those 
days ; nor were they much better off at the Rag, save in 
summer, when they rigged up a tent in the back-yard, and 
held their tabagie under canvas. At the Minerva they had 
no smoking-room ; the bishops, and other old women in 
power there, distinctly refusing to sanction a place for any 
such orgies. But at the Maecenas the smoking-room was the 
room in the house. None of your attics or cock-lofts, none 



40 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

of your stair-climbing, to get into a bare garret at the end 
of your toil. At the Maecenas you went straight through 
the hall, past all the busts of the eminent gentlemen, 
through a well-lit stone passage, where, if you were lucky, 
you might see, in a little room on the right, honest Mr 
Turquand the steward brewing a jorum of that gin-punch 
for which the Club was so renowned ; past the housekeeper's 
room, where Mrs Norris sat breast-high in clean table- 
linen, and surrounded by garlands of lemons and groves of 
spices ; past the big refrigerator, into which Tom distance 
threatened to dip little Captain Rodney one night, when 
that peppery light-weight had had too much of the Club 
claret ; and then, built over what should have been the 
garden, you found the pride of the little M. A big square 
room, lit by a skylight in summer, or sun-burner in winter, 
with so much wall paper as could be seen of a light-green 
colour, but with the walls nearly covered with sketches in 
oil, crayon, and water-colour, contributed by members of 
the Club. Prom mantel-shelf to ceiling had been covered 
by Cilks, in distemper, with " Against "Wind and Tide " — a 
lovely bit of seascape, to look at which kept you cool on the 
hottest night ; opposite hung Sandy Clobber's hot staring 
"Sphinx and Pyramids ; " Jack Long's crayon caricature of 
" King Jamie inditing the Counterblast " faced a charming 
sketch of a charming actress by Acton, R.A. ; and there 
were a score of other gems of art. Such cosy chairs and 
luxurious lounges ; such ventilation, watched over specially 
by Fairfax, the oldest and perhaps the jolliest member of 
the Club ; such prime cigars and glorious drinks, and pun- 
gent anecdote and cheerful conversation, were to be had 
nowhere else. 

The room was full when Laurence and Bertram entered, 
and the former was immediately received with what 
dramatic critics call " an ovation ; " that is, the men gener- 
ally shook hands with him, and expressed themselves glad 
to see him back." 

" xind I see by your dress that you've no sooner arrived 
than you've plunged into the vortex of society, Colonel," 
said old Fairfax from his post of honour in the chimney- 
corner. 



IN THE SMOKING-ROOM. 41. 

" Not I, Mr Fairfax," replied Laurence, laughing; "I've 
only been to the play." 

•■ AVliat! not to Spofforth' s, — not to the Parthenium ? " 

'■ Why not ? is there any harm ? is it a riddle ? what is 
it ? Let me know at once, because, whatever it is, I've 
been there." 

" No, no ; only there's been a difference of opinion about 
the new piece. Billy Gromon thinks it capital, and gave us 
a flaming account of it ; but since then Captain Hethering- 
ton has come in and spoken very strongly against it. 
Now, Colonel, you can act as umpire between these two 
referees." 

- Not at all, not at all," said Mr Gromon, a mild bald- 
headed little gentleman who did Boswell to Spofforth, and 
was rewarded for perpetually blowing his idol's trumpet by 
opera-ivories and first-night private boxes, and occasional 
dinners with pleasant theatrical people. " I merely said 
that there was — ah, an originality, — a cleverness, — and — a 
— above all a gentlemanly tone in the piece such as you 
never find in any one's writings but Spofforth's." 

Most of the men sitting round laughed heartily as Billy 
Gomon uttered his sentiments in the mildest, most depre- 
catory manner, and with the pleasantest smile. 

" Well, that's not bad to begin with ; and now, Cis, what 
have you got to say ? " 

A big man, half sitting,' half lolling on an ottoman at the 
other side of the room, wholly occupied in smoking a very 
large cigar, staring at the ceiling and pulling his long tawny 
moustaches, looked up at the mention of his name and said : 

" Well, look here, Alsager : I'm not clever, and all that 
sort of thing, you know ; I'm not particularly sweet on my 
own opinion ; of course, being a Plunger, I can't spell or 
write, or pronounce my r's 'cordin' to Punch and the 
other funny dogs, and so I've no doubt Billy Gromon's 
right ; and it's doosid clever of Mr Spofforth, a gentleman 
whose acquaintance I've not the pleasure of possessing — 
and don't want, by Jove, that's more ! — doosid clever of 
Mr Spofforth to rake up a dunghill story out of the news- 
papers when it had been forgotten, and to put the un- 
fortunate devils who were concerned in it on to the stage, 



42 KUNNING THE GAtTNTLET. 

and bring back all the old scandal. I've no doubt it's doosid 
clever ; and I'm sure it's a very gentlemanly thing of Mr 
Spofforth to do ; so gentlemanly that, if any of my people 
had been mixed up in it, I'd have tried the strength of my 
hunting-crop over Mr SpofForth's shoulders ! " And having 
concluded, Cis Hetherington leant back lazily, and resumed 
his contemplation of the ceiling. 

There was a pause for a moment, and then Bertram said : 

" Quite right, Hetherington ; horrible piece, dreary and 
dirty. D — d unpleasant to think that one can't go to the 
theatre with a modest woman without having innuendoes and 
doubles entendres thrown at you." 

" By Jove, a second edition of the miraculous gift of 
tongues ! " said a man seated on Laurence's right. " I never 
heard the Blab so charmingly eloquent. Tou were with him 
at the theatre, Alsager ; who was the lady whom he so de- 
liriously described as a ' modest woman ' that he escorted ? " 
The speaker was Lord Dollamore, a man of good abilities 
and position, but a confirmed Sybarite and a renowned roue. 

" Bertram escorted no one ; he merely had a seat in a 
box with Lady Mitford and her husband," said Laurence 
coldly. He hated Lord Dollamore. As he himself said, he 
" didn't gq in to be strait-laced ; but Dollamore was a cold- 
blooded ruffian about women, and, worse still, a boaster." 

" Ah, with Lady Mitford ! " said Lord Dollamore, slowly 
expelling a mouthful of smoke ; " I have the pleasure of her 
acquaintance. She's very nice, Alsager ! " 

There was a succulence in the tone in which these last 
words were spoken that sounded unpleasantly on Laurence's 
ear ; so he said shortly, " I saw Lady Mitford for the first 
time to-night." 

" Oh, she's very nice ; a little too classical and statuesque 
and Clite-like for my taste, which leans more to the beaute- 
du-diable order ; but still Lady Mitford's charming. Poor 
little woman ! she's like the young bears, with all her 
troubles before her." 

" Her troubles won't be many, one would think," said 
Laurence, who was growing irritated under his companion's 
half-patronizing, half-familiar tone in speaking of Lady 
Mitford. 



IN THE SMOKING-ROOM. 43 

" Won't they ? " said Lord Dollamore, with another slow 
expulsion of smoke ; this time in the shape of rings, "which 
he dexterously shot one through the other. 

" I can't see how they should. She has beauty, wealth, 
and position ; a young husband who dotes on her, — Oh, you 
needn't grin ; I saw him with her in the box." 

'■ Yes, and I saw him without her, but with Bligh and 
Winton, the two Clarks, who are coryphees at Drury Lane, 
and Mdlle Carambola from the cirque at Leicester Square, 
turning in to supper at Dubourg's. JSfow, then, what do 
you say to that ? " 

" jNTothing. Mitford told his wife he was going to supper 
with Bligh and Winton. I heard him." 

" Very likely ; but you didn't hear him mention the 
female element. No, of course not." 

" Sir Charles Mitford being, I presume, a gentleman, that 
suggestion is simply absurd." 

" Pardon me, my dear Colonel Alsager, I never make any 
suggestion that can be called ' simply absurd.' The fact is, 
Alsager, that though I'm only, I suppose, five or six years 
older than you, I've seen a deal more of life." 

" Of which side of it ? " 

" Well, the most interesting, — the worst, of course. While 
you've been mounting guard and saluting colours, and 
teaching bullet-headed recruits to form square, and all that 
kind of thing, I've been studying human nature." 

" How delightful for human nature ! " 

" That may or may not be," said Lord Dollamore calmly, 
and without the smallest sign of irritation ; " but this I 
know, that all boy-and-girl marriages invariably come to 
grief. A man must have his fling some time or other ; if 
he does not have it before his marriage, he will after. And be- 
tween ourselves, Alsager, this Mitford is a devilish bad egg. 
I've known of him all his life. He had a fast turn when he 
was a mere boy, and didn't stick at trifles to raise money, 
as you may have heard." 

" I know all about that ; but — " 

" And do you think that, now that he has plenty of money 
and health and position, he won't go in for that style of 
pleasure which he formerly risked everything to obtain ? 



44 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

Nonsense, my dear Alsager ; cela va sans dire. Lady Mit- 
ford will have to run the gauntlet of society, as do most 
married women with loose husbands ; and will certainly he 
more successful than most of her competitors." 

Laurence put down his cigar, and looking steadily at his 
companion, said, " I don't envy the man who could be 
blackguard enough to attempt to throw a shadow on such a 
woman's life." 

" Don't you ? " said Lord Dollamore, as steadily return- 
ing the glance ; " of course not." Then, in a somewhat 
lighter tone, he added, " By the way, have you seen the 
Hammonds lately ? " 

A flush, noticeable even through the red bronze, rose on 
Laurence's cheeks ; but before he could speak, a man who 
was sitting on the other side of Lord Dollamore cut into 
the conversation by saying, " Oh, by the way, there was a 
brother of Percy Hammond's dining here last week ; Pro- 
thero asked me to meet him. He's a sporting parson, and a 
tremendous character. He told us he always knew when 
woodcock came in by the lesson for the day." 

" I know him," said Cis Hetherington, avIio had lounged 
up and joined the party ; " Tom Hammond, a thundering 
big fellow. His vicarage, or rectory, or Avhatever it is, is 
close by Dursley ; and at the last election Tom seconded 
my brother- — Westonhanger, you know- — for the county. 
The Pads brought over a lot of roughs, navvies and fellows 
who were working at the railway close by ; and whenever 
Tom spoke these fellows kept yelling out all sorts of black- 
guard language. Tom roared to them to stop it ; and when 
they wouldn't, he quietly let himself drop over the front of 
the hustings, right into the middle of 'em. He's a splendid 
bruiser, you know ; and he let out— one two, one two — 
right and left, and sent half-a-dozen of 'em flying like 
skittles. Then he asked if any more was wanted, carefully 
settled his clerical white choker, and went back to the 
hustings again." 

" He owed your brother a good turn after the way in 
which he astonished your governor a year or two ago, Cis," 
said Lord Dollamore. 

" What was that ? Did he pull the Duke up for coming 



IN THE SMOKING-ROOM. 45 

late to the church, or for not hunting the county ? The 
last most likely, I should think." 

" Xot at all. You all know what a tremendous swell 
Cis's brother, the Duke, is, — you know it, Cis, as well as 
anybody, — wants all the pavement to himself in Sfc James's 
Street, and finds the arch on Constitution Hill not quite 
high enough for his head. Well, a year or two ago Tom 
Hammond had a splendid roan horse which he used to drive 
in a light Whitechapel to cover. The Duke saw this 
animal, and thought it would make a splendid match for a 
roan of his ; so he sent his coachman over to Tom's little place 
to ask if he'd sell. Tom saw the coachman, heard what he had 
to say, and then told him he never spoke to grooms, except to 
give them orders ; if the Duke wanted the horse, he must 
come himself. I can't think what message the man can 
have given to his master ; but two days after, the Duke's 
phaeton pulled up at the parsonage door, and the Duke 
himself bowed to Tom, who ran to the window with his 
mouth full of lunch. Tom's account of the iuterview was 
delicious. He imitates the Duke's haw-haw manner to 
perfection,— you don't mind, Cis ? He asked him in, and 
told him that the Stilton was in prime cut ; but the Duke 
declined, and said, ' I understand you wish to sell your 
roan, Mr Hammond.' ' Then your grace understands a 
good deal more than I gave you credit for,' said Tom. 
' Then you don't want to sell the horse ? I want him par- 
ticularly for a match-horse.' ' JSTo,' said Tom, ' I won't sell 
him. I'm a poor parson, and I wouldn't take three hun- 
dred for him ; but I'll tell you what I'll do, your grace. 
I'm always open to a bit of sporting ; and Til toss your 
grace for the pair ; or, if that's not exciting enough, I'll get 
my curate to come in — he's only next door — and we'll go 
the odd man, the best of three. That's what I'll do.' Tom 
says he thought the Duke would have had a fit. He never 
spoke a word, but drove straight away, and has never looked 
at Tom since." 

After the laugh which this story raised had ceased, Lord 
Dollamore said, " Did Tom say anything about his brother 
Percy the day he dined here ? " 

" O yes," said the man who had first spoken ; " they're 



46 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

coming back at ouce. Mrs Hammond finds Florence dis- 
agrees with her." 

" Perhaps she'd had Laurence agree with her better," 
said Dollamore sotto voce ; then aloud, " Ah ! and so of 
course poor Percy is to be trotted back again. By Jove, 
how that woman rules him ! She has only to whistle, and 
he comes to her at once. I should like to see a woman try 
that on me, — a woman that I was married to, I mean. — By 
the way, you haven't seen Mrs Hammond since her marriage, 
have you, Alsager ? " 

" No ; I left England just previously " 
" Ah ! she's as pretty as ever, and infinitely more wicked 
— I beg your pardon, though ; I forgot we had turned 
purist since our Oriental experience." 

" At all events we have learned one thing in our Oriental 
experience, Lord Dollamore." 
" And that is—? " 

" To keep our temper and — hold our tongue. Good- 
night." 

And as he said these words, Laurence Alsager rose from 
his seat and left the room ; Bertram had previously taken his 
departure ; so that Laurence walked oiF alone to his hotel, 
pondering on all he had seen and heard. 

" So she's coming back," he said to himself as he strolled 
along ; " coming back to bring back to me, whenever I may 
happen to meet her, all the sickening recollections of the 
old times, the heart-burnings, the heart-breaking, to escape 
from which I rushed away two years ago. She Avon the day 
then, and she'll be as insolent as she can be on the strength 
of her victory now, though she knows well enough that I 
did not shoot my best bolt then, but keep it in my quiver 
yet. It's impossible to fight with a woman ; they can 
descend to so many dodges and meannesses where no man 
worthy of the name could follow them. No ; I'll seek 
safety in flight. I'll be off again as soon as I've seen the 
governor ; and then — And yet what a strange interest I 
seem to take in that girl I saw to-night ! Poor little 
child ! I wonder if Dollamore's right about her husband. 
"Well, I'll wait a few days, and see what turns up." 



IN THE SMOKING- BOOM. 47 

While these thoughts were passing through Laurence 
Alsager's mind, Sir Charles Mitford was leaning against the 
jamhs of the door leading from his dressing-room into his 
wife's hed-room. He had one boot off, and was vainly en- 
deavouring to discover the hole in the bootjack in which to 
insert the other foot. The noise which he made in this 
operation awoke Lady Mitford, who called out, "Oh, Charley, 
is that you ? " 

" Course, my dear," said Sir Charles iu a thick voice ; 
" who should it be this time o' night ? not that it's late, 
though," he said, correcting himself after a moment's re- 
flection ; then looking vacantly at her, added in a high- 
falsetto key, " quite early." 

" Tou are not ill, Charley ? " she asked, looking anxiously 
at him. 

" Not I, my darling ; never berrer. — Oif at last, are 
you ? " this last observation addressed to the conquered 
boot. " But you, what's marrer with you ? Look all 
flushed and frightened like." 

" I've had a horrid confused dream about the theatre, and 
people we saw there, and snakes, oh so dreadful ! and that 
grave man, Colonel Somebody, that you introduced me to, 
was just going to rescue me. Oh, Charley, I feel so low and 
depressed, and as though something were going to happen. 
I'm sure we shan't be happy in London. Let's go away 
again. 

" Nonsense, Ceorgie ; — nonsense, my love ! Very jolly 
place for — good supper, — Colonel Snakes ; " and with these 
intelligible murmurings Sir Charles Mitford slipped into the 
land of dreams. 



CHAPTEE V 

GEORGIE. 



If, twelve months before the production of Mr Spoftorth's 
play (which necessarily forms a kind of Hegira in this 



48 ErXNIXG THE GACNTLET. 

story), you had told G-eorgie Stanfield that she was destined 
to he the wife of a baronet, the mistress of a house in one 
of the best parts of London, the possessor of horses and 
carriages, and all the happiness which a very large yearly 
income can command, your assertions would have been met, 
not with ridicule — for G-eorgie was too gentle and too well- 
bred for that — but with utter disbelief. Her whole life 
had been passed in the little Devonshire village of which her 
father was vicar, and it seemed to her impossible that she 
could ever live anywhere else. To potter about in the 
garden during the summer in a large flapping straw hat and 
a cotton gown, to tie up drooping flowers and snip off dead 
leaves ; to stand on the little terrace dreamily gazing over 
the outspread sea, watching the red sails of the fishing- 
smacks skimming away to the horizon, or the trim yachts 
lying off the little port — the yachts whose fine-lady pas- 
sengers, and gallant swells all blue broad-cloth and club- 
button, seen at a distance, — were G-eorgie's sole links with 
the fashionable world ; to visit and read to the bed-ridden 
old women and the snuffling, coughing old men ; to super- 
intend the preparation of charitably-dispensed gruel and 
soup ; to traverse flavor's Spelling-book up and down, up 
and down, over and over again, in the company of the stupid 
girls of the village- school ; to read the Gulhmpton Chronicle 
to her father on Thursdays, and to copy out his sermon on 
the Saturday evenings, — these had been the occupations of 
Georgie Stanfield' s uneventful life. 

She had not had even the excitement of flirtations, a few 
of which fall to the lot of nearly every girl, be she pretty or 
plain, rich or poor, town or country-bred. The military 
depots are now so numerous that it is hard, indeed, if at least 
a couple of subalterns cannot be found to come over any 
distance in the rumbling dog-cart hired from the inn in the 
provincial town where they are quartered; and though iu 
Georgie's days there was no croquet, — that best of excuses 
for social gathering and mild flirtation, — yet there were 
archery-meetings, horticultural shows, and picnics. Failing 
the absence of the military, even the most-out-of-the-way 
country village can produce a curate ; and an intending 
flirt has merely to tone-down certain notions and expand 



GKOEGIK. 49 

others, to modify her scarlets and work-up her grays, and 
she will have, if not a very exciting, at all events a very in- 
teresting, time in playing her fish. But there were no bar- 
racks within miles of Fishbourne, nor any temptations there 
to have attracted officers from them, if there had been. 
There were no resident gentry in the place, and the nearest 
house of any importance — Weston Tower, the seat of old 
Lady Majoribanks — was twenty miles off, and old Lady 
Majoribanks kept no company As for the curates, there 
was one, certainly ; but Mr Lucas had " assisted " Georgie's 
father for tbe last eighteen years, was fifty years old, and 
had a little wife as slow and as gray as the old pony which 
he used to ride to outlying parts of the parish. 

Besides, if there had been eligible men in scores, what 
had they to do with G-eorgie Stanfield, or she with them ? 
"Was she not engaged to Charles Mitford? — at least, had 
she not been so affianced until that dreadful business about 
something wrong that brought poor Charley into disgrace ? 
and was that sufficient to permit her to break her plighted 
word ? Mr Mitford, Charles's father, had been a banker 
and brewer at Cullompton, and had had a country cottage 
at Fishbourne, a charming little place for his family to come 
to in the summer ; and Mr Stanfield had been Charley's 
tutor ; and when the family were away at Cullompton in 
the winter, Charley had remained at the vicarage ; and 
what so likely as that Charley should fall in love with 
G-eorgie, then a tall slip of a girl in short petticoats and 
frilled trousers and very thin legs, with her hair in a net ; 
or that Georgie should have reciprocated the attachment ? 
Both the fathers were delighted at the arrangement ; 
and there was no mother on either side to talk of extreme 
youth, the chance of change, or to interpose other womanly 
objections. There came a time when Charley, then a tall 
handsome fellow, was to go up to Oxford ; and then Georgie, 
to whom the outward and visible frill period was long past, 
and who was a lovely budding girl of sweet seventeen, laid 
her head on his breast on the night before he went away, 
and promised never to forget him, but to be his and his 
alone. 

Ah, those promises never to forget — those whispered 



50 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

words of love breathed by lips trembling under the thick 
cigar-scented moustache into delicate little ears trellised by 
braids fresh from the fingers of the lady's-maid ! They are 
not much to the Corydons of St James's Street, or the 
Phyllises of Belgravia. By how many different lips, and 
into how many different ears, are the words whispered and 
the vows breathed in the course of one London season ! I 
declare I never pass through any of the great squares and 
streets, and see the men enclosing the balconies with striped 
calico, that I do not wonder to myself whether, amongst all 
the nonsense that has been talked beneath that well-worn 
awning-stuff, there has been any that has laid the found- 
ation for, or given the crowning touch to, an honest simple 
love-match, a marriage undertaken by two people out of 
sheer regard for each other, and permitted by relatives and 
friends, without a single thought of money or position to 
be gained on either side. If there be any, they must be 
very few in number ; and this, be it observed, not on 
account of that supposed favourite pastime of parents — the 
disposal of their daughters' hands and happiness to the 
highest bidder, the outcry against which has been so 
general, and is really, I believe, so undeserved. The cir- 
cumstance is, I take it, entirely ascribable to the lax morality 
of the age, under which a girl engages herself to a man 
without the slightest forethought, often without the least 
intention of holding to her word, not unfrequently from the 
increased opportunities such a state of things affords her 
for flirting with some other man, and under which she can 
break her engagement and jilt her lover without com- 
promising herself in the least in the eyes of society. Be- 
sides, in the course of a London life these vows and pledges 
are tendered so often as to be worn almost threadbare from 
the number of times they have been pledged ; and as excess 
of familiarity always breeds contempt, the repetition of 
solemn phrases gradually takes from us the due appreciation 
of their meaning, and we repeat them parrot-wise, without 
the smallest care for what we are saying. 

But that promise of love and truth and remembrance 
uttered by Georgie Stanfield on the sands at Bishbourne, 
under the yellow harvest-moon, with her head pillowed on 



GEORGIE. 51 

Charles Mitford's breast and her arms clasped round his 
neck, came from a young heart which had known no guile, 
and was kept as religiously as was Sir Galahad's vow of 
chastity. Within a year after Charley's departure for 
Oxford, his father's affairs, which, as it afterwards appeared, 
had long been in hopeless confusion, became irretrievably 
involved. The bank stopped payment, and the old man, 
unable to face the storm of ignominy by which he imagined 
he should be assailed, committed suicide. The smash was 
complete ; Charles had to leave the University, and became 
entirely dependent on his uncle, Sir Percy Mitford, who 
declined to see him, but offered to purchase for him a com- 
mission in a marching regiment, and to allow him fifty 
pounds a year. The young man accepted the offer ; and 
by the same post wrote to Greorgie, telling her all, and 
giving her the option of freeing herself from the engage- 
ment. It was a gentlemanly act ; but a cheap bit of gener- 
osity, after all. He might have staked the fifty pounds a 
year his uncle had promised him, on the fidelity of such a 
girl as Greorgie Stanfield, more especially in the time of 
trouble. Her father, too, with his old disregard of the 
future, entirely approved of his daughter's standing by her 
lover under the circumstances of his altered fortune ; and 
two letters — one breathing a renewal of love and trust, the 
other full of encouragement and hope — went away from 
Fishbourne parsonage, and brought tears into the eyes of 
their recipient, as he sat on the edge of a truckle-bed in a 
whitewashed room in Canterbury Barracks. 

The vow of constancy and its renewal were two little 
epochs in Greorgie's quiet life. Then, not very long after 
the occurrence of the last, — some six months, — there came 
a third, destined never to be forgotten. There had been 
no letter from Charley for some days, and Q-eorgie had been 
in the habit of walking across the lawn to meet the post- 
man and question him over the garden- wall. 

One heavy dun August morning, when the clouds were 
solemnly gathering up together, the air dead and still, the 
trees hushed and motionless, Greorgie had seen the old man 
Avith a letter in his hand, and had hastened, even more 1 
eagerly than usual, across the lawn, to be proportionately 



OZ RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

disappointed when the postman shook his head, and point- 
ing to the letter, said, " For the master, miss." The next 
minute she heard the sharp clang of the gate-bell, and saw 
her father take the letter from the postman's hand at his 
little study-window. Some inward prompting- — she knew 
not what — kept Georgie's eyes on her father. She saw 
him take out his spectacles, wipe then, and carefully adjust 
them ; then take the letter, and holding it at nearly arm's 
length, examine its address ; then comfortably settling him- 
self in his arm-chair at the window, prepare to read it. 
Then Georgie saw the old man fall backward in his chair, 
his hand dropping powerless by his side, and the letter 
fluttering from it to the ground. "Without uttering a cry, 
Georgie ran quickly to the house ; but when she reached 
the study, Mr Staniield was sitting upright in his chair, and 
had picked the letter from the floor. 

"Papa dearest," said Georgie, "you gave me such a 
fright. I was watching you from the garden, and I thought 
I saw you faint. O papa, you are ill ! How white and 
scared you look ! What is it, papa darling ? — tell me." 

But to all this Mr Staniield only murmured, gazing up 
into his daughter's face, " My poor child ! my poor darling 
child ! " 

" "What is it, papa ? Oh, I know — -it's about Charley ! 
He's not — " and then she blanched dead-white, and said in 
a scarcely audible voice, " He's not dead, papa? " 

" No, Georgie, no. It might be better if he were,— be 
better if he were." 

"He's very ill, then?" 

" No, darling, — at least — there ; perhaps you'd better 
read it for yourself; here, read it for yourself;" and the 
old man, after giving her the letter, covered his face with 
his hands and sobbed aloud. 

Then Georgie read in Sir Percy Mitford's roundest hand 
and stiffest style, how his nephew Charles, utterly ungrate- 
ful for the kindness which he, Sir Percy, had showered 
upon him, and regardless of the fact that he had no re- 
sources of his own nor expectations of any, had plunged 
into " every kind of vice and debauchery, notably gambling " 
— (Sir Percy was chairman of Quarter-Sessions, and you 



GEOEGIE. ;iO 

might trace the effect of act-of-parliament reading in his 
style) — hew he had lost large sums at cards ; and how, 
with the double object of paying his debts and retrieving 
his losses, he had at length forged Sir Percy's signature to 
a bill for £"200 ; and when the document became due had 
absconded, no one knew where. Sir Percy need scarcely 
say that all communication between him and this unworthy 
member of — he grieved to say — his family was at an end 
for ever ; and he took that opportunity, while informing 
Mr Stanfield of the circumstance, of congratulating him on 
having been lucky enough to escape any matrimonial con- 
nection with such a rogue and a vagabond. 

Mr Stanfield watched her perusal of the letter ; and 
when she had finished it, and returned it to him calmly, he 
said : 

" Well, my dear ! it's a severe blow, is it not ? " 

" Yes, papa, it is indeed a severe blow. Poor Charley ! " 

" Poor Charley, my dear ! You surely don't feel the 
least compassion for Charles Mitford ; a man who has — 
who has outraged the laws of his country ! " 

" Xot feel compassion for him, papa ? "Who could help 
it ? Poor Charley, what a bitter degradation for him ! " 

" For him ! degradation for him ! Bless my soul, I can't 
understand ; for us, G-eorgina, — degradation for us, you 
mean ! However, there's an end of it. We've washed our 
hands of him from this time forth, and never — " 

" Papa, do you know what you're saying ? Washed our 
hands of Charles Mitford ! I)o you recollect that I have 
promised to be his wife ? " 

Promised to be his wife ! Why, the girl's going mad ! 
Promised to be his wife ! Do you know that the man has 
committed forgery ? " 

" Well, papa." 

"Well, papa! Good God! I shall go mad myself! You 
know he's committed forgery, and you still hold to your 
engagement to him ? " 

' ; Unquestionably. Is it for me, his betrothed wife, to 
desert him now that he is in misery and disgrace ? Is it 
for vou, a Christian clergyman, to turn your back on an 
old friend who has fallen, and who needs your sympathy 



54 BUNKING THE GAUNTLET. 

and counsel now really for the first time in his life ? 
Would you wish me to give up this engagement, which, 
perhaps, may be the very means of bringing Charles back 
to the right ? " 

" Yes, my dear, yes ; that's all very well," said the old 
gentleman, — " all very well from a woman's point of view. 
But you see, for ourselves — " 

" Well, papa, what then ? " 

" Well, my dear, of course we ought not to think so 
much for ourselves ; but still, as your father, I've a right 
to say that I should not wish to see you married to a — a 
felon." 

" And as a clergyman, papa ? — what have you a right to 
say as a clergyman ? " 

"I — I' decline to pursue the subject, Georgina; so I'll 
only say this — that you're my daughter, and you're not of 
age yet ; and I command you to break off this engagement 
with this — this criminal ! That's all." 

G-eorgie simply said, " Tou know my determination, 
papa." >-; And there the matter ended. 

This was the first quarrel that there had ever been be- 
tween father and daughter, and both felt it very much 
indeed. Mr Stanfield, who had about as much acquaintance 
with human nature, and as much power of reading charac- 
ter, as if he had been blind and deaf, thought G-eorgie 
would certainly give way, and laid all sorts of palpable 
traps, and gave all sorts of available opportunities for her to 
throw herself into his arms, confess how wrong she had 
been, and promise never to think of Charles Mitford again. 
But Georgie fell in with none of these ways ; she kissed 
her father's forehead on coming down in the morning, and 
repeated the process on retiring at night ; but she never 
spoke to him at meal-times, and kept away from home as 
much as possible during the day, roaming over the country 
on her chestnut mare Polly, a tremendous favourite, which 
had been bought and broken for her by Charley in the old 
days. 

During the whole of this time Mr Stanfield was eminent- 
ly uncomfortable. He had acted upon the ridiculous prin- 
ciple vulgarly rendered by the phrase, cutting off his nose 



GEOEGIE. 55 

to spite his face. He had deprived himself of a great many- 
personal comforts without doing one' bit of good. Tor a 
fortnight the Cullompton Chronicle had remained uncut and 
unread, though he knew there was an account of a bishop's 
visitation to the neighbouring diocese which would have in- 
terested him highly. For two consecutive Sundays the 
parishioners of Fishbourne had been regaled with old 
sermons in consequence of there being no one to transcribe 
the vicar's notes, which, save to G-eorgie, were unintelligible 
to'the world in general and to their writer in particular. He 
missed Georgie's form in the garden as he was accustomed 
to see it when looking up from his books or his writing ; 
he missed her sweet voice carolling bird-like through the 
house, and always reminding him of that dead wife whose 
memory he so tenderly loved ; and notwithstanding the 
constant horse-exercise, he thought, from sly glances which 
he had stolen across the table at her during dinner, that 
she was looking pale and careworn. "Worst of all, he was 
not at all sure that the position he had taken up was en- 
tirely defensible on moral grounds. He was differently 
placed from that celebrated character in the Critic, who 
" as a father softened, but as a governor was fixed." As a 
father he might object to the continuance of an engagement 
between his child and a man who had proved himself a sin- 
ner not merely against religious ordinances, but against the 
laws of his country ; but he was very doubtful whether, as 
a Christian and a clergyman, he was not bound to stretch 
out the hand of forgiveness, and endeavour to reclaim 
the penitent. If Mr Stanfield had lived in these days, and 
been sufficiently before the world, he would probably have 
had "ten thousand college councils" to "thunder anathema" 
at him for daring to promulgate the doctrine that " God is 
love ; " but in the little retired parish where he lived, 
he taught it because he believed it ; and he felt that he had 
rather fallen away from his standard in endeavouring to 
coerce his daughter into giving up Charles Mitford. 

So one morning, when Georgie came down to breakfast 
looking flushed and worried, and very little refreshed by her 
night's sleep, instead of calmly receiving the frontal kiss, as 
had been his wont during the preceding fortnight, the old 



Ob EDNNTNG THE GAUNTLET. 

man's arms were wound round her, his lips were pressed to 
hers, while he murmured, "Oh, Georgie! ah, my darling! 
ah, my child ! " and there was a display of f/r ancles eau.v on 
both sides, and the reconciliation was complete. At a later 
period of that day Mr Stanfield entered fully upon the 
subject of Charles Mitford, told Georgie that if the scapegrace 
could be found, he should be willingly received at the par- 
sonage ; and then the old gentleman concocted a mysterious 
advertisement, to the effect that if C. M., formerly of 
Fishbourne, Devon, would call on Mr Stevens of Fumival's 
Inn, Holborn, London, he would hear something to his 
advantage, and be received with hearty welcome by friends 
Avho had forgiven, but not forgotten, him. 

This advertisement, duly inserted through the medium 
of Mr Stevens, the lawyer therein named, in the mystic 
second column of the Times Supplement, appeared regularly 
every other day during the space of a month ; and good 
old Mr Stanfield wrote twice a week to Mr Stevens, inquir- 
ing whether " nothing had come of it ; " and Mr Stevens 
duly replied (at three shillings and sixpence a letter) that 
nothing had. It must have been two months after the 
concoction of the advertisement, and one after its last 
appearance in the columns of the Times, that there came 
a letter for Georgie, written irt the well -known hand, 
and signed with the well-known initials. It was very 
short, merely saying that for the second time the writer 
felt it due to her to leave her unfettered by any past en- 
gagement existing between them ; that he knew how he 
had disgraced and placed himself beyond the pale of 
society ; but that he would always cherish her memory, 
and think of her as some pure and bright star which he 
might look up to, but to the possession of which ho could 
never aspire. 

Poor little Georgie was dreadfully touched by this epistle, 
and so was Mr Stanfield, regarding it as a work of art ; but 
as a practical man he thought he saw a chance for again 
working the disruption of the engagement-question — this 
time as suggested by Charles himself; and there was little 
doubt that he would have enunciated these sentiments at 
length, had he not been abruptly stopped by Georgie on 



GEORGIE. u7 

his first giving a hint about it. Despairing of this mode of 
attack, the old gentleman became diplomatic and machia- 
velian ; and I am inclined to think that it was owing to some 
secret conspiracy on his part, that young Frank Majoribanks, 
staying on a desperately-dreary three-weeks' visit with his 
aunt and patroness, Lady Majoribanks, took occasion to 
drive one of the old lady's old carriage-horses over to Fish- 
bourne in a ramshackle springless cart belonging to the gar- 
dener, and to accept the vicar's offer of luncheon. He had 
not been five minutes iu the house before G-eorgie found he 
had been at Oxford with Charley Mitford ; and as he had 
nothing but laudatory remarks to make of his old chum (he 
had heard nothing of him since he left college), G-eorgie 
was very polite to him. But when, after his second or 
third visit, he completely threw aside Charley as his stalk- 
ing-horse, and began to make running on his own account, 
Greorgie saw through the whole thing in an instant, and 
treated him with such marked coldness that, being a man of 
the world, he took the hint readily, and never came near the 
place again. And Mr Stanfield saw with dismay that his 
diplomacy succeeded no better than his threats, and that 
his daughter was as much devoted to Charles Mitford as 
ever. 

So the two dwellers in the parsonage fell back into their 
ordinary course of life, and time went on, and Mr Stanfield's 
hair grew gradually more gray, and his shoulders gradually 
more rounded, and the sweet girl of seventeen became the 
budding woman of twenty. Then one Thursday evening, 
in the discharge of her weekly task of reading to her father 
the Cullompton Chronicle, G-eorgie suddenly stopped, and al- 
though not in the least given to fainting or " nerves," was 
obliged to put her hand to her side and wait for breath. 
Then when a little recovered she read out to the wondering 
old gentleman the paragraph announcing the fatal accident 
to Sir Percy Mitford and his sons, and the accession of 
Charles to the title and estates. Like Paolo and Francesca, 
— though from a very different reason, — " that night they 
read no more," the newspaper was laid by, and each sat 
immersed in thought. The old man's simple faith led him 
to believe that at length the long-wished-for result had ar- 



58 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

rived, and that all his daughter's patience, long-suffering, 
and courage would be rewarded. But G-eorgie, though she 
smiled at her father's babble, knew that throughout her ac- 
quaintance with Charley he had gone through no such trial 
as that to which the acquisition of wealth and position 
would now subject him ; and she prayed earnestly with all 
her soul and strength that in this time of temptation her 
lover might not fall a,way. 

A fortnight passed, and Mr Stanfield, finding not merely 
that he had not heard from the new baronet, but that no 
intelligence of him had been received at Eedmoor, at the 
town house, or by the family lawyers, determined upon re- 
newing his advertisement in the Times. By its side pre- 
sently appeared another far less reticent, boldly calling on 
" Charles Mitford, formerly of Cullompton, Devon ; then 
of Brasenose College, Oxford ; then of the 26th regiment of 
the line ; " to communicate with Messrs Moss and Moss, 
Solicitors, Cursitor Street, Chancery Lane, and hear some- 
thing to his advantage. To this advertisement a line was 
added, which sent a thrill through the little household at 
the parsonage : " As the said Charles Mitford has not been 
heard of for some months, any one capable of legally proving 
his death should communicate with Messrs M. and M. 
above named." Capable of legally proving his death ! 
Could that be the end of all poor Georgie's life-dream ? 
Could he have died without ever learning all her love 
for him, her truth to him ? No ! it was not so bad as 
that ; though, but for the shrewdness of Edward Moss 
and the promptitude of Inspector Stellfox, it might have 
been. A very few hours more would have done it. As 
it was, little Dr Prater, who happened to be dining with 
Marshal Moss at the Hummums when Mitford was brought 
there by the inspector, and who immediately undertook the 
case, scarcely thought he should pull his patient through. 
When the fierce stage of the disorder was past, there re- 
mained a horrible weakness and languor, which the clever 
little physician attacked in vain. " Nature, my dear sir, — 
nature and your native air, they must do the rest for you ; 
the virtues of the pharmacopoeia are exhausted." 

So one autumn evening, as Mr Stanfield sat poring over 



GEORGIE. 59 

his book, and Georgie, her hope day by day dying away 
within her, was looking ont over the darkening landscape, 
the noise of wheels was heard at the gate ; a grave man in 
black descended from the box of a postchaise, a worn, thin, 
haggard face peered out of the window ; and the next in- 
stant, before Mr Stanfield at all comprehended what had 
happened, the carriage door was thrown open, and G-eorgie 
was hanging round the neck of the carriage occupant ; and 
kiss, kiss, and bless, bless ! and thank God ! and safe once 
more ! was all the explanation audible. 

Dr Prater was quite right ; nature and the patient's 
native air effected a complete cure. By the end of a month 
— such a happy month for G-eorgie ! — Sir Charles was able 
to drive to Eedmoor to see the men of business from London ; 
by the end of two months he stood at the altar of the little 
Fishbourne church, and received his darling from the hands 
of her father ; the ceremony being performed by the old 
curate, who had learned to love Georgie as his own child, 
and who wept plentifully as he bestowed on her his blessing. 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE GRAYS. 



When Laurence Alsager awoke the next morning, he did 
not regard life with such weariness, nor London with such 
detestation, as when he went to bed. He had slept splen- 
didly, as would naturally fall to the lot of a man who for 
two years had been deprived of that greatest of earthly 
comforts — an English bed. Laurence had bounded on 
French spring-mattresses ; had sweltered beneath German 
feather-lined poverlets ; had cramped himself up in berths ; 
had swung restlessly in hammocks ; had stifled behind mos- 
quito curtains ; and had passed many nights with his cloak 
for his bed, and his saddle-bags for his pillow, with the half- 
naked forms of dirty Arabs dimly visible in the flickering 
firelight, and the howls of distant jackals ringing in his ears. 



60 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

He had undergone every description of bed-discomfort ; 
and it is not to be wondered at that he lingered long in 
that glorious nest of cleanliness and rest provided for him 
at his hotel. As he lay there at his ease, thoroughly awake, 
but utterly averse to getting up, he began to think over all 
that had happened during the previous evening ; and first 
he thought what a charming-looking woman Lady Mitford 
was. 

The Scotch gentleman who had remarked that Colonel 
Alsager was " a deevil among the sax " had some founda- 
tion for his observation ; for it was a fact that, from the 
days when Laurence left Eton and was gazetted to the 
Coldstreams, until he sold his commission and left England 
in disgust, his name had always been coupled by the gossips 
with that of some lady well known either in or out of 
society. He was a mere boy, slim and whiskerless, when 
the intense admiration which he excited in the breast of 
Mdlle Valentine, combined with what she afterwards termed 
the " coldly insular " manner in which he treated her, gave 
that charming danseuse such a migraine as rendered her 
unable to appear in public for a week, and very nearly 
caused Mr Lumley to be favoured with a row equal to the 
celebrated Tamburini riot in the days of M. Laporte. He 
was not more than twenty when " Punter " Blair told him 
that his goings-on with Lady Mary Blair, the Punter's 
sister-in-law, were the talk of the town ; and that if her 
husband, the Admiral, was blind, he, the Punter, wasn't, as 
he'd let Alsager pretty soon know. Laurence replied that 
the Punter had better mind his own business, — which was 
'• legging " young boys at ecarte and blind-hookey, — and 
leave his brother's wife alone ; upon which Punter Blair 
sent O'Dwyer of the 18th with a message ; and there must 
inevitably have been a meeting, had not Blair's colonel got 
a hint of it, and caused it to be intimated to Mr Blair that 
unless this matter with Mr Alsager were arranged, he, the 
colonel, should have to take such notice of " other matters " 
affecting Mr Blair as would compel that gentleman to send 
in his papers. 

So in a score of cases differing very slightly from each 
other. It was the old story which was lyrically rendered 



THJB GKAYS. 61 

by Dr Watts, of Satan being always ready to provide con- 
genial occupation for gentlemen with nothing to do. There 
is not, I believe, very much martial ardour in the House- 
hold Brigade just now. That born of the Crimean war has 
died out and faded away, and the officers have taken to 
drive off ennui, some by becoming district visitors, and 
others by enjoying the honest beer and improving conversa- 
tion of the firemen in Watling Street. But even now there 
is infinitely more enthusiasm, more belief in the profession 
as a profession, more study of strategy as a thing which a 
military man should know something of, than there was 
before the Crimean expedition. The metropolitan inhabit- 
ants had little care for their gallant defenders in those days. 
Their acquaintance with them was limited to the knowledge 
that large red men were perpetually discovered in the kit- 
chens, and on discovery were presented as relatives of the 
servants ; or that serious, and in some cases fatal, brawls 
occurred in the streets, when the pleasant fellows laid about 
them with their belts, or ran a-muck amongst a crowd with 
their bayonets. An occasional review took place in the 
Park, or a field-day at "Woolwich ; but no cordial relations 
existed between the majority of the Londoners and the 
household troops until the news came of the battle of the 
Alma. Then the public learned that the Guards' officers 
were to be heard of in other places than ball-rooms and 
divorce-courts, and that guardsmen could fight with as much 
untiring energy as they had already displayed in feeding on 
householders and flirting with cooks. 

Not much worse, certainly not much better, than his 
compeers was Laurence Alsager in those days, always having 
" something on " in the way of feminine worship, until the 
great " something " happened, which, according to Jock 
M'Laren and one or two others, had occasioned the great 
change in his life, and caused his prolonged absence from 
England. But in all his experience he had only known 
women of a certain kind ; Avomen of the world, ready to 
give and take ; women, in his relations with whom there 
had been no spice of romance save that spurious romance 
of the French-novel school, so attractive at first, so hollow, 
and bad, and disgusting, when proceeded with. It is not 



62 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

too much to say that, varied as his " affaires " had been, he 
had not known one quiet, pure-minded, virtuous woman ; 
and that during his long foreign sojourn he had thought 
over this, and often wondered whether he should ever have 
a wife of his own, or, failing this, whether he should ever 
have a female friend whom at the same time he could love 
and respect. 

Tes, that was the sort of woman, he thought to himself 
as he lay calmly reflecting. "What a good face she had ! so 
quiet and calm and self-possessed. Naturally self-possessed ; 
not that firm disgusting imperturbability which your hard- 
ened London coquette has, he thought ; like that horrible 
M'Alister, who puts her double eye-glass up to her eyes 
and coolly surveys women and men alike, as though they 
were slaves in the Constantinople market, and she the buyer 
for the Sultan. There certainly was a wonderful charm 
about Lady Mitford, and, good heavens ! think of a man 
having such a wife as that, and going off to sup with Bligh 
and Winton, who were simply two empty-headed roue jack- 
asses, and Pontifex, who — "Well, it was very lucky that 
people didn't think alike. Yes, that man Mitford was a 
lout, a great overgrown-schoolboy sort of fellow, who might 
be led into any sort of scrapes by — By Jove ! that's what 
Dollamore had said with that horribly cynical grin. And 
Lady Mitford would have to run the gauntlet of society, as 
did most women whose husbands went to the bad. 

Laurence Alsager was a very different man from the 
Laurence Alsager of two years ago. He wanted something 
to fill up his leisure time, and he thought he saw his way 
to it. Dollamore never spoke at random. Erom his quietly 
succulent manner Alsager knew that his lordship meant 
mischief, probably in his own person, at all events hinted 
plainly enough that — Ah ! he would stop all that. He 
would pit himself against Dollamore, or any of them, and it 
would be at least a novelty to have a virtuous instead of a 
vicious end in view. Mitford might be a fool, his wife weak 
and silly ; but there should be no disastrous consequences. 
Dollamore's prophecy should be unfulfilled, and he, Lau- 
rence Alsager, should be the active agent in tl^ matter. 

Simultaneously with this determination he decided upon 



THE GRAYS. 63 

deferring his visit to his father, aijcl settling himself in 
Loudon for a time. He would be on the spot ; he would 
cultivate the acquaintance which Mitford so readily held 
out to him ; he would have the garrison well under surveil- 
lance in order carefully to observe the enemy's approach ; 
and — ^The shower-bath cut short his reflections at this 
point. 

He dressed and breakfasted ; despatched his servant to 
see if his old rooms in Jermyn Street were vacant ; lit a 
cigar and strolled out. He had at first determined to brave 
public opinion in every shape and form, to retain his beard, 
to wear the curious light coats and elaborately puckered 
trousers which a Vienna Schneider had a year before turned 
out as prime specimens of the sartorial art. But even to 
this determination the night's reflection brought a change, 
and he found himself turning into Poole's, and suffering 
himself to be suited to the very latest cut and colour. Then 
he must get a hack or two from Saunderson in Piccadilly ; 
and as the nearest way from Poole's in Saville Row to 
Saunderson's in Piccadilly is, as every one knows, down 
Grosvenor Place and through Eaton Place, that was the way 
that Laurence Alsager walked. 

Eaton Place is not a very cheerful thoroughfare at the 
best of times. Even in the season, when all the houses are 
full of the domesticity of parliament-members, furnished at 
the hebdomadal rate of twenty guineas, there is a stuccoey 
and leading-to -not-much thoroughfare' depression about it ; 
but on a January morn, as Laurence saw it, it was specially 
dull. Sir Charles Mitford had mentioned no number, so 
that Laurence took a critical survey of each house as he 
passed, considering whether the lady in whom he had sud- 
denly taken so paternal an interest resided there. He had, 
however, passed a very few doors when at the other end of 
the street he saw a low pony-carriage with a pair of iron- 
gray ponies standing at a door ; and just as he noted them, 
a slight figure, which he recognized in an instant, came down 
the steps and took up its position in the phaeton. It was 
Lady Mitford, dressed in velvet edged with sable, with a 
very little black-velvet bonnet just covering the back of her 
head (it was before the days of hats), and pretty dogskin 



64 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

driving-gloves. She cast a timid glance at the ponies before 
she got in (she had always had horsy tastes down at Fish- 
bourne, though without much opportunity of gratifying 
them), and was so occupied in gathering up the reins, and 
speaking to the groom at the ponies' head, as scarcely to 
notice Laurence's bow. Then with a view to retrieve her 
rudeness, she put out her hand, and said cordially : 

" How do you do, Colonel Alsager ? I beg your pardon ; 
I was taking such interest in the ponies that I never saw 
you coming up. They're a new toy, a present from my 
husband ; and that must be my excuse." 

" There is no excuse needed, Lady Mitford. The ponies 
are charming. Are you going to drive them r " 

" O yes ; why not ? Saunderson's people say they are 
perfectly quiet ; and, indeed, we are going to take them out 
to the farm at Acton, just to show Mr Grieve the stud- 
groom how nicely they look in our new phaeton." 

" You're sure of your own powers ? They look a little 
fresh." 

" Oh, I have not the least fear. Besides, my husband will 
be with me ; I'm only waiting for him to come down, and 
he drives splendidly, you know." 

" I've a recollection of his prowess as a tandem-whip at 
Oxford, when the Dean once sent to him with a request 
that he'd ' take the leader off.' Well, au plaisir, Lady Mit- 
ford. I wish you and the two ponies all possible enjoy- 
ment." And he took off his hat and went on his way. Oh, 
he was perfectly right ; she was charming. He wasn't sure 
whether she hadn't looked better even this morning than 
last night, so fresh and wholesome. And her manner, with- 
out the slightest suspicion of an arriere pensee, free, frank, 
and ingenuous ; how nicely she spoke about her husband 
and his driving ! There could be no mistake about a woman 
like that. Xo warping or twisting could torture her con- 
duct into anything assailable. He'd been slightly Quixotic 
when he thought to give himself work by watching over and 
defending her ; he — " Good morning, Mr Spurrier. Recol- 
lect me ? Mr Saunderson in ?" Eevolving all these things 
in his mind, he had walked so quickly that he found himself 



THE GRAYS. 65 

in Piccadilly, and in Mr Saunderson's yard, before he knew 
where he was. 

" Delighted to see you back, Colonel. Thought I caught 
a glimpse of you at the theatre last night, but was doubtful, 
because of your beard. No ; Mr Saunderson's gone up to 
the farm to meet a lady on business ; but anything I can 
do I shall be delighted." Mr Spurrier was Mr Saunder- 
son's partner, a very handsome, fresh-coloured, cheery man, 
who had been in a light-cavalry regiment, and coming into 
money on the death of a relation, had turned his bequest 
and his horsy talents to account. There were few such 
judges of horseflesh ; no better rider across country than 
he. " Thought you'd be giving us a call, Colonel, unless 
you'd imported a few Arabs ; and gave you credit for better 
judgment than that. Tour Arab's a weedy beast, and 
utterly unfit for hacking." 

" No, Spurrier, I didn't carry my orientalism to that ex- 
tent. I might have brought back a clever camel or two, or 
a dromedary, ' well suited for an elderly or nervous rider,' 
as they say in the advertisements ; but I didn't. I suppose 
you can suit me with a hack." 

Mr Spurrier duly laughed at the first part of this speech, 
and replied in the affirmative, of course, to the second. 
"You haven't lost much flesh in the East, Colonel," said he, 
running him over with his eye, — " I should say you pull off 
twelve stone still." Then Mr Spurrier, as was his wont, 
made a great show of throwing himself into a fit of abstrac- 
tion, during the occurrence of which he was supposed by 
customers to be mentally going through the resources of 
his establishment ; and roused himself by calling the head- 
groom, and bidding him tell them to bring out the Baby. 

The Baby was a bright bay with black points, small clean 
head, short well-cut ears, and a bright eye, arching neck, 
and, as she showed when trotted up the yard with the groom 
at her head, splendid action. When she was pulled up and 
stood in the usual position after the " show " had been given, 
Laurence stepped up, eyed her critically all over, and passed 
his hand down her legs. Spurrier laughed. 

" All right there, Colonel. Fine as silk ; not a sign of a 

5 



66 EUXXIXG THE GANTLET. 

puff, I'll guarantee, and strong as steel. Perfect animal, I 
call her, for a park-hack." A horse was never a "horse," 
but always an <: animal " with YLr Spurrier, as with the rest 
of his fraternity. " Will you get on her, Colonel ? Just 
give her a turn in the Part. — Here, take this mare in, and 
put a saddle and bridle on her for Colonel Alsager." 

It was a bright sunny winter's day. and the few people 
in town were taking their constitutional in the Row. As 
Alsager rode round by the Achilles statue he heard ringing 
laughter and saw fluttering habits, which, associated with 
the place in his mind with his last London experiences, 
brought up some apparently unpleasant recollection as he 
touched the mare with his heel, and she. after two or three 
capricious bounds, settled down into that long swinging 
gallop which is such perfect luxury. He brought her back 
as quietly as she would come, though a little excited and 
restless at the unaccustomed exercise, and growled a good 
deal to himself as he rode. "' Just the same ; a little more 
sun, and some leaves on the trees then, and a few more 
people about ; that's all. Gad ! I can see her now, sitting 
square, as she always used, and as easy on that chestnut 
brute that pulled so infernally, as though she were in an 
arm-chair. Ah ! enough has happened since I was last in 
this place." And then he rode the Baby into the yard, 
asked Ylr Spurrier her price, agreed to take her, told 
Spurrier he wanted a groom and a groom's horse, and was 
sauntering away, when Mr Spurrier said, " You'll, want 
something to carry you to hounds, Colonel ? " 

" I think not ; at all events not this season."' 

" Sorry for that, as I've got something up at the farm 
that would suit you exactly." 

: 2"To, thank you ; where did you say ? " 
At our farm at Acton. You've been there, you know." 

: The farm at Acton ! — that was where Lady 3Iitford said 
she was going to drive. She must be the lady whom lEr 
Saunderson had gone to meet. Spurrier saw the irreso- 
lution in his customer's face and acted promptly. 

' ; Let me take you out there ; we sha'n't be twenty 
minutes going ; and this is really something you ought not 
to miss. He's so good, that I give you my word I wouldn't 



THE GRAYS. 67 

sell him to any but a workman. Tou will ? All right !— ■>• 
Put the horses to." 

Within three minutes Laurence Alsager was seated by- 
Mr Spurrier's side in a mail-phaeton, spinning along to Mr 
Saunderson's farm and his own fate. 

There were few whips in London who drove so well or so 
fast as Mr Spurrier, and there were none who had better 
horses, as may be imagined ; but Laurence did not find the 
pace a whit too fast. He had asked Mr Spurrier on the 
road, and ascertained from him that it was Lady Mitford 
who was expected. " And a charming lady too, sir ; so 
gentle and kind with every one. Speaks to the men here 
as polite as possible, and they're not over-used to that ; for, 
you see, in business one's obliged to speak sharp, or you'd 
never get attended to. Don't think she knows much of 
our line, though she's dreadfully anxious to learn all about 
it ; for Sir Charles is partial to horseflesh, and is a good 
judge of an animal. He's been a good customer to us, and 
will be better, I expect, though he hasn't hunted this season, 
being just married, you see. That's the regular thing, I 
find. ' You'll give up hunting, dear ? I should be so terri- 
fied when you were out.' ' Very well, dear ; anything for 
you ; ' and away go the animals to Tattersall's ; and within 
six months my gentleman will come to me and say, ' Grot 
anything that will carry me next season, Spurrier ? " and 
at it he goes again as hard as ever." 

" I saw the ponies at the door this morning," said Lau- 
rence, for the sake of something to say ; " they're a hand- 
some pair." 

" Te-es," replied Mr Spurrier ; " I don't know very much 
of them ; they're Mr Saunderson's buying. I drove 'em 
once, and thought they wanted making ; but Sir Charles is 
a good whip, and he'll do that. — Ga-a-te ! " And at this 
prolonged shout the lodge-gates flew open, and they drove 
into the stable-yard. 

Mr Saunderson was there, but no Lady Mitford. Mr 
Saunderson had his watch in his hand, and even the look 
of gratification which he threw into his face when he greeted 
Colonel Alsager on his return was very fleeting. There 



68 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

was scarcely a man in London whose time was more valuable, 
and he shook his head as he said, " I'll give her five minutes 
more, and then I'm off. — What are you going to show the 
Colonel, Spurrier ? " 

" I told them to bring out Launcelot first." 

Mr Saunderson shook his head : " Too bad, Spurrier, 
too bad ! I told you how the Duke fancied that animal, 
and how I'd given his Grace the refusal of him." 

" "Well, we can't keep our business at a standstill for 
dukes or any one else. Besides, we've known the Colonel 
much longer than the Duke." 

" That's true," said Mr Saunderson with a courteous bow 
to Laurence. " Well, if Colonel Alsager fancies the animal, 
I must get out of it with his Grace in the best way I can." 

It was a curious thing, but no one ever bought a horse 
of Mr Saunderson that had not been immensely admired by, 
and generally promised to, some anonymous member of the 
peerage. 

" Easy with him, Martin, easy ! Bring him over here. — 
So, Launcelot, so, boy." 

Launcelot was a big chestnut horse, over sixteen hands 
high, high crest, long lean head, enormous quarters, power- 
ful legs, and large broad feet. He looked every inch a 
weight-carrying hunter, and a scar or two here and there 
about him by no means detracted from his beauty in the 
eyes of the knowing ones. Martin was the rough-rider to 
the establishment, bullet-headed, high-cheek-boned, sunken- 
eyed, with limbs of steel, and pluck which would have made 
him ram a horse at the Victoria Tower if he had had in- 
structions. As Mr Spurrier patted the horse's neck, Mar- 
tin leant over him and whispered, " I've told one o' them 
to come out on Black Jack, sir. This is a 'oss that wants a 
lead, this 'oss does. Give 'im a lead, and he'll face any- 
thing" 

" All right," said Spurrier, as another man and horse 
came out ; " here they are. Go down to the gate in the 
tan-gallop, will you ? put up the hurdles first. — JSFow, 
Colonel, this way, please ; the grass is rather wet even 
now." 

They walked across a large meadow, along one side of 



THE GKAYS. 



6d 



which from end to end a tan-gallop had been made. Mid- 
way across this some hurdles with furze on the top had 
been stuck up between two gate-posts, and at these the 
boy on Black Jack rode his horse. A steady-goer, Black 
Jack ; up to his work, and knowing exactly what was 
expected of him ; comes easily up to the hurdles, rises, and 
is over like a bird. Not so Launcelot, who frets at start- 
ing ; but moves under Martin's knees and Martin's spurs, 
gives two or three bounds, throws up his head, and is off 
like a flash of lightning. Martin steadies him a bit as they 
approach the leap, and Jack's rider brings his horse round, 
meets Martin half-way, and at it they go together. Jack 
jumps again, exactly in his old easy way, but Launcelot 
tears away with a snort and a rush, and jumps, as Mr 
Spurrier says, " as though he would jump into the next 
county." 

" Now the gate ! " says Mr Spurrier ; and the hurdles 
were removed, and a massive five-barred gate put up be- 
tween the posts. 

'■' Tou go first, boy," said Spurrier ; and Black Jack's 
rider, who was but a boy, looked very white in the gills, and 
very tight in the mouth, and galloped off. But Jack was 
not meant for a country which grew such gates as that, and 
when he reached it, turned short round, palpably refusing. 
Knowing he should get slanged by his master, the boy was 
bringing him up again, when he heard a warning shout, 
and looking round, cleared out of the way to let Launcelot 
pass. Launcelot's mettle was up ; he wanted no lead this 
time. Martin, with his face impassably set, brought his 
whip down heavily on him as he lifted him ; but Launcelot 
did not need the blow ; he sprang three or four inches clear 
of the leap in splendid style. 

" By George, that's a fine creature ! " said Laurence, 
who had all a sportsman's admiration for the feat. " I 
think I must have him, Spurrier, if his figure's not very 
awful. But I should first like to take him over that gate 
myself." 

" All right, Colonel ; I thought he'd, take your fancy. — 
Get down, Martin, and let down those stirrups a couple of 
holes for the Colonel, will you ? — And you, boy, tumble off 



70 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

there. I'll see whether that old vagabond will refuse with 
me. — Ah, you're a sly old scoundrel, Jack ; but I think 
we'll clear the gate, old boy ! " 

Alsager was already in the saddle, and Spurrier was 
tightening the girths, when the former heard a low rumbling 
sound gradually growing more distinct. 

" What's that ? " he asked his companion. 

" What ? " asked Spurrier, with his head still under the 
saddle-flap ; but when he stood upright and listened, he 
said, " That's a runaway ! I know the sound too well ; and 
■ — and a pair ! By the Lord, the grays ! " 

They were standing close by the hedge which separated 
the meadow from the road. It was a high quick-set hedge, 
with thick post-and-rail fence running through it, and it 
grew on the top of a high bank with a six-foot drop into 
the road. Standing in his stirrups and craning over the 
hedge, Laurence saw a sight which made his blood run cold. 
Just having breasted the railway-bridge, and tearing down 
the incline at their maddest pace, came the grays, and in 
the phaeton, which swung frightfully from side to side, sat 
Lady Mitford — alone ! A dust-stained form gathering 
itself up out of the road in the distance looked like a 
groom ; but Sir Charles was not to be seen. Lady Mitford 
still held the reins, and appeared to be endeavouring to 
regain command over the ponies ; but her efforts were evi- 
dently utterly useless. 

Mr Spurrier, who had mounted, comprehended the whole 
scene in a second, and roared out, " Eun, Martin ! run, you 
boy ! get out into the lane, and stop these devils ! Hoi ! " 
this to the grooms in the distance, to whom he telegraphed 
with his whip. " They don't understand, the brutes ! and 
she'll be killed. Here, Colonel, to the right-about ! Eive 
hundred yards off there's a gate, and we can get through 
and head them. What are you at ? you're never going at 
the hedge. By Gr — , you'll break your neck, man ! " 

All too late to have any effect were his last words; before 
they were uttered, Laurence had turned Sir Launcelot's 
head, taken a short sharp circling gallop to get him into 
pace, and then crammed him straight at the hedge. Spur- 



THE GRAYS. 71 

rier says that to his dying day ho shall never forget that 
jump ; and he often talks about it now when he is giving a 
gentleman a glass of sherry, after a " show " just previous to 
the hunting season. Pale as death, Avith his hat over his 
brows, and his hands down on the horse's withers, sat 
Laurence ; and just as Sir Launcelot rose at the leap, he 
dealt him a cut with a heavy whip which he had snatched 
out of Spurrier's hand. The gallant animal rose splendidly, 
cleared posts and rails, crashed through the quickset, and 
came thundering into the lane below. Neither rider nor 
horse were prepared for the deep drop ; the latter on 
grounding bungled awkwardly on to his knees ; but Lau- 
rence had him up in an instant, and left him blown and 
panting, when at the moment the grays came in sight. 
Lady Mitford was still in the carriage, but had apparently 
fainted, for she lay back motionless, while the reins were 
dragging in the road. 

Laurence thought there vras yet a chance of stopping the 
ponies, upon whom the pace was evidently beginning to tell 
severely, but, as they neared a gate leading to a portion of 
the outbuildings, where on their first purchase by Mr Saun- 
dersou they had been stabled, the grays, recollecting the 
landmarks, wheeled suddenly to the left and made for the 
gate. The carriage ran up an embankment and instantly 
overturned ; one of the ponies fell, and commenced lashing 
out in all directions ; the other, pulled across the pole, was 
plunging and struggling in wild attempts to free itself. 
The men who had been signalled to by Spurrier were by 
this time issuing from the lodge-gates, and making towards 
the spot ; but long before they reached it, a tall man with 
a flowing black beard had sprung in among the debris, re- 
gardless of hoofs flying in all directions, and had dragged 
therefrom the senseless form of Lady Mitford. 

" "What is the matter ? "Where am I ? " 

" You're at my farm, Lady Mitford," said Mr Saunder- 
son, advancing with that old-fashioned courtesy which he 
always assumed when dealing with ladies ; and there's no- 
thing the matter, thank God ! though you've had a bad 



72 EUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

accident with the ponies, which seem to have run away ; and 
I may say you owe your life to Colonel Alsager, who rescued 
you at the peril of his own." 

She looked round with a faint smile at Laurence, who 
was standing at the foot of the sofa on which she lay, and 
was about to speak, when Laurence lifted his hand depre- 
catingly : 

" Not a word, please, Lady Mitford ; not a single word. 
"What I did was simply nothing, and our friend Mr Saun- 
derson exaggerates horribly. Yes, one word — what of Sir 
Charles ? " 

" He has not heard of it ? He must not be told." 

" No, of course not. "What Ave want to know is Avhether 
he started for the drive with you." 

" Oh no ; he could not come, — he was prevented, thank 
God ! And the groom ? " 

" Oh, he's all right ; a little shaken, that's all." 

Laurence did not say that the groom had been not a 
little shaken by Mr Spurrier, who caught the wretched lad 
by the collar, and holding his whip over him told him 
mildly that he had a great mind to " cut his life out " for 
his cowardice in throwing himself out of the trap, and leav- 
ing his mistress to her fate. 

Then it was arranged that Mr Saunderson should take 
Lady Mitford home, and explain all that had happened to 
Sir Charles. She took Laurence's arm to the carriage, and 
when she was seated, gave him her hand, saying frankly 
and earnestly, " I shall never forget that, under Providence, 
I owe my life to you, Colonel Alsager." 

As they drove back to town together, Mr Spurrier said 
to his companion : " I shall have to book Sir Launcelot to 
you, Colonel. I've looked at his knees, and though they're 
all right, only the slightest skin-wound, still — 

" Don't say another word, Spurrier," interrupted Lau- 
rence; " I wouldn't let any one else have him, after to-day's 
work, for all the money in the world." 

Laurence spoke innocently enough ; but he noticed that 
during the rest of the drive back to town Mr Spurrier was 
eyeing him with great curiosity. 



lo 



CHAPTER VII. 

WHAT HAD DETAINED SIR CHARLES. 

The arrangement for the trial of the ponies had been one 
of some standing between Sir Charles and his wife, and one 
to which he fully intended to adhere. It is true that on 
waking after the supper with Messrs Bligh, Winton, Ponti- 
fex, and their companions, he did not feel quite so fresh as 
he might have wished, and would very much have liked a 
couple of hours' additional sleep ; yet so soon as he remem- 
bered the appointment, he determined that Greorgie should 
not be disappointed ; and by not having the " chill " taken 
off his shower-bath as usual, he was soon braced up to his 
ordinary good condition. Nevertheless, with all his good 
intentions, lie was nearly an hour later than usual ; and 
Greorgie had gone up to dress for the drive Avhen Sir Charles 
descended to the breakfast-room to discuss the second relay 
of broiled bone and devilled kidney which had been served 
up to tempt his sluggish appetite. He was making a not 
very successful attempt to eat, and between each mouthful 
was reading in the newspaper Mr Rose's laudatory notice 
of Mr Spofforth's play, when his servant, entering, told him 
that a " person " wanted to speak to him. There is no 
sharper appreciator of worldly position than your well- 
trained London servant, and Banks was a treasure. 

" "What is it, Banks ? " asked Sir Charles, looking up. 

" A person wishing to see you, Sir Charles," replied 
Banks. 

" A person ! is it a man or a woman ? " 

" The party," said Banks, varying his word, but not alter- 
ing the generic appellation, — " the party is a man, sir." 

" Do I know him ? " 

" I should say certainly not, Sir Charles," replied Banks 
in a tone which intimated that if his master did know the 
stranger, he ought to be ashamed of himself. 

" Did he give no name ? " 



74 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



" I ast him for his name, Sir Charles, and he only says, 
' Tell your master,' he says, ' that a gentleman,' he says, 
' wants to see him.' " 

" Oh, tell him that he must call some other time and 
send in his business. I can't see him now ; I'm just going 
out for a drive with Lady Mitford. Tell him to call again." 

" There was a time, and not very long ago either," said 
Sir Charles, taking up the paper as Banks retired, " that if 
I'd been told that a man who wouldn't give his name wanted 
to speak to me, I should have slipped out the back-way and 
run for my life. But, thank Grod, that's all over now. — 
Well, Banks, what now ? " 

" The party is very arbitrary, Sir Charles ; he won't take 
' no ' for an answer ; and when I told him you must know 
his business, he bust out larfin' and told me to say he was 
an old messmate of yours, and had sailed with you on board 
the Albatross." 

A red spot burned on Sir Charles Mitford's cheek as he 
laid the newspaper aside and said, " Show this person into 
the library, and deny me to every one while he remains. 
Let your mistress be told I am prevented by business from 
driving with her to-day. Look sharp ! " 

Mr Banks was not accustomed to be told to " look sharp!" 
and during his three-months' experience of his master he 
had never heard him speak in so petulant a tone. " I'd no 
idea he'd been a seafarin' gent," he said downstairs, "or I'd 
a never undertook the place. The tempers of those ship- 
captains is awful." 

When Banks had left the room Sir Charles walked to the 
sideboard, and leant heavily against it while he poured out 
and drank a liqueur-glass of brandy 

" The Albatross ! " he muttered with white lips; "which 
of them can it be ? I thought I had heard the last of that 
cursed name. Banks said a man ; it's not the worst of 
them, then. That's lucky." 

He went into the library and seated himself in an arm- 
chair facing the door. He had scarcely done so when Banks 
gloomily ushered in the stranger. 

He was a middle-sized dark man, dressed in what seemed 
to be a seedy caricature of the then prevailing fashion. 



WHAT HAD DETAINED SIR CHARLES. 75 

His coat had once been a bright-claret colour, but was now 
dull, threadbare, and frayed round the edges of the breast- 
pocket, out of which peeped the end of a flashy silk hand- 
kerchief. He had no shirt-collar apparent ; but wore round 
his neck a dirty blue-satin scarf with two pins, one large 
and one small, fastened together by a little chain. His 
trousers were of a staring green shawl-pattern, cut so as to 
hide nearly all the boot and tightly strapped doAvn, as was 
the fashion of those days ; and the little of his boots visible 
was broken and shabby. Sir Charles looked at him hard 
and steadily, then gave a sigh of relief. He had never 
seen the man before. He pointed to a chair, into which his 
visitor dropped with an easy swagger ; then crossed his 
legs, and looking at Sir Charles, said familiarly, " And how 
are you ? " 

" You have the advantage of me," said Sir Charles. 

" I think I have," said the man grinning ; " and what's 
more, I mean to keep it too. Lord, what a precious dance 
you have led me, to be sure ! " 

" Look here, sir," said Mitford : " be good enough to tell 
me your business, and go. I'm engaged." 

" Go ! Oh, you're on the high jeff, are you ? And engaged 
too ! Going to drive your missis out in that pretty little 
trap I saw at the door ? Well, I'm sorry to stop you ; but 
you must." 

" Must ! " 

" Tes, must. 'Tain't a nice word ; but it's the word I 
want. Must ; and I'll tell you why. Tou recollect Tony 
Butler ? " 

Sir Charles Mitford's colour, which had returned when 
he saw that his visitor was a stranger to him, and which had 
even increased under the insolence of the man's manner, fled 
at the mention of this name. His face and lips were quite 
white as he said, " I do indeed." 

" Tes, I knew you would. "Well, he's dead, Tony is." 

" Thank God ! " said Sir Charles ; " he was a horrible 
villain." 

" Tes," said the man pleasantly ; " I think I'm with you 
in both those remarks. It's a good job he's dead ; and he 
was a bad 'un, was Tony, though he was my brother." 



76 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

" Tour brother ! " 



n 



Ah ! that's just it. We never met before, because I 
was in America when you and Tony were so thick together. 
You see I'm not such a swell as Tony was ; and they — him 
and father, I mean — were glad to get me out of the country 
for fear I should spoil any of their little games. "When I 
came back, you had given Tony a licking, so far as I could 
make out, though he'd never tell exactly, and your friend- 
ship was all bust up, and he was dreadfully mad with you. 
And that's how we never came to meet before." 

" And why have we met now, pray ? " said Sir Charles. 
" "What is your business with me ? " 

" I'm coming to that in good time. Tony's last words to 
me were, ' If you want to do a, good thing for yourself, 
Dick,' he says, ' find out a fellow named Charles Mitford. 
He's safe to turn up trumps some day,' says Tony, ' he's so 
uncommonly sharp ; and whenever you get to speak to him, 
before you say who you are, tell him you sailed in the Alba- 
tross.' Lord bless you! I knew the lot of 'em- — Crockett, and 
Dunks, and Lizzie Ponsford ; they said you aud she used to 
be very sweet on each other, and — •" 

The door opened suddenly, and Lady Mitford hurried in- 
to the room ; but seeing a stranger, she drew back. Sir 
Charles went to the door. 

" "What do you want, Georgie ? " said he sharply. 

" I had no idea you had any one here, Charles, or I 
wouldn't have disturbed you. Oh, Charley, send that hor- 
rid man away, and come and drive me out." 

She looked so pretty and spoke so whmingly that he 
patted her cheek with his hand, and said in a much softer 
voice, " I can't come now, child. This man is here on 
special business, and I must go through it Avith him. So 
good-bye, pet, and enjoy yourself." 

She made a little moue of entreaty, and put her hands be- 
fore his face in a comic appeal ; but he shook his head, 
kissed her cheek, and shut the door. 

" Pretty creechur, that ! " said his companion ; " looks as 
well in her bonnet as out of it ; and there's few of 'em does, 
I think." 



WHAT HAD DETAINED SIR CHAKLES. 77 

" When did you ever see Lady Mitford before, sir ? " 
asked Sir Charles haughtily. 

" Ah ! that's just it," replied Mr Butler with a snigger- 
ing laugh. " I told you you'd led me a precious dance to 
find you, and so you had. Tony told me that you had 
regularly come to grief since you parted with him, and I 
had a regular hunt after yoiv in all sorts of lodging-houses 
and places. There are lots of my pals on the look-out for 
you now." 

" Upon my soul, you're devilish kind to take all this 
trouble about me, Mr — Butler. What your motive was 
I can't imagine." 

" You'll know all in good time ; I'm coming to that ; and 
not ' Butler,' please : Mr Effingham is my name just now ; 
I'll tell you why by and by. Well, I couldn't get hold of 
you anyhow, and I thought you'd gone dead or something, 
when last night, as I was standing waiting to come out of 
the Parthenium, I heard the linkmen outside hollaring 
' Lady Mitford' s carriage ! ' like mad. The name strikes on 
my ears, and I thought I'd wait and see her ladyship. 
Presently down came the lady we've just seen, leaning on 
the arm of a cove in a big black beard like a foreigner. 
' J^o go,' says I, ' that's not my man ; ' and I says to a 
flunkey who was standing next to me, ' He's a rum 'un to 
look at, is her husband.' ' That's not her husband,' he says ; 
' this is Sir Charles coming now.' The name Charles and 
the figure being like struck me at once ; so I took the 
flunkey into the public next door, and we had a glass, and 
he told me all about the old gent and his kids being drowned, 
and your coming in for the title. ' That's my man,' says I 
to myself; and I found out where you lived, and came 
straight on here this morning." 

" And now that your prying and sneaking has been suc- 
cessful and you have found me, what do you want ? " 

" Ah ! I thought you'd lose your temper ; Tony always 
said you was hotheaded. What do I want ! Well, to be 
very short and come to the point at once — money." 

" I guessed as much." 

" Yes, there's no denying it ; I'm regularly stumped. I 



78 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

suppose you were surprised now to hear I wasn't flush, after 
seeing me so well got-up ? But it's a deal of it dummy. 
These pins now, — Lowther Arcade ! No ticker at the end 
of this guard ; nothing but a key — look ! " And he twitched 
a key out of his waistcoat-pocket. " My boots too are in- 
fernally leaky ; and my hat has become quite limp from 
being perpetually damped and ironed. Tes, I want money 
badly." 

"Look here, Mr " 

" Effingham." 

" Mr Effingham, you have taken, as you yourself admit, 
an immense deal of trouble to hunt me up, and having found 
me you ask me for money, on the ground of your being the 
brother of an infernal scoundrel whom I had once the ill- 
luck to be associated with — don't interrupt me, please. It 
wasn't Tony Butler's fault that I didn't die on a dunghill, 
or that I am not now^ — " 

" In Norfolk Island," said Mr Effingham, getting in his 
words this time. 

Sir Charles glared fiercely at him for an instant, and then 
continued : " Now I expected I should have to encounter 
this sort of thing from the people who pillaged me when I 
was poor, and would make that an excuse for further ex- 
tortion, and I determined not to accede to any application. 
But as you're the first who has applied, and as you've neither 
bullied nor whined, I'll tell you what I'll do. Fll give you, 
on condition I never see or hear of you again, this five- 
pound note." 

Mr Effingham laughed, a real hearty laugh, as he 
shook his head, and said : " Won't do : nothing like 
enough." 

Sir Charles lost his temper, and said : " Stop this infernal 
tomfoolery, sir ! Not enough ! Why, d — n it, one would 
think you had a claim upon me ! " 

" And suppose I have, Sir Charles Mitford, what then ? " 
said Mr Effingham, leaning forward in his chair and con- 
fronting his companion. 

" What then ? Why — pooh, stuff ! this is . a poor at- 
tempt at extortion. Tou don't think to get any money out 
of me by threatening to tell of my connection with the 



WHAT HAD DETAINED SIB CHARLES. 79 

Albatross crew ? You don't think I should mind the people 
to whom you could tell it knowing it, do you ? " 

" I don't know ; perhaps not ; and yet I think I shall be 
able before I've done to prove to you I've a claim on you." 

" What is it ? " 

"All tiled here, eh? Nobody within earshot? That 
sleek cove in black that wouldn't let me see you, not listen- 
ing at the door, is he ? " 

" There is no one to hear," said Sir Charles, who was get- 
ting more and more uncomfortable at all this mystery. 

" All right, then. Sorry to rake up disagreeables ; but I 
must. You recollect making a slight mistake about your 
Christian name once, fancying it was Percy instead of 
Charles ; writing it as Percy across a stamped bit of paper 
good for two hundred quid, and putting Redmoor as your 
address after it ? " 

" "Well, what if I do ? " His lips were so parched he 
could hardly frame the words. 

" It would be awkward to have anything of that sort 
brought up just now, wouldn't it ? " 

Sir Charles hesitated for an instant, then gave a great sigh 
of relief as he said : " You infernal scoundrel ! you think to 
frighten me with that, do you ? To make that the ground 
for your extortion?" 'Why, you miserable wretch, I myself 
burnt that — that— document in Moss's office ! " 

" How you do run on, Sir Charles ! I just mentioned 
something about a little bill, and you're down upon me in a 
moment. I guessed that was destroyed ; at all events I 
knew it was all safe ; and Sir Percy's dead, so it don't much 
matter. But, Lord ! with your memory you must surely 
recollect another little dockyment, — quite a little one, only 
five-and-twenty pound, — where you mistook both your 
names that time, and accepted it as Walter Burgess : — 
recollect? " 

The pallor had spread over Mitford's face again, and his 
lips quivered as he said : " That was destroyed- — destroyed 
by Tony Butler long since — before the other one was 
done." 

"Yes, yes, I know this was the first, — a little one just to 
get your hand in. But it ain't destroyed. It's all right, 



80 GUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

bless you ! I can see it now -with a big black 
stamped across it by the bank-people." 

" Where is it ? " 

" Oh, it's in very safe keeping with a friend of mine who 
scarcely knows its value. Because, though he knows it's a 
forgery, he don't know who done it ; now, you see, through 
my brother Tony, I do know who done it ; and I do know 
that Walter Burgess is alive, and is a large hop-factor down 
Maidstone way, and owing you a grudge for that thrashing 
you gave him in the billiard-rooms at Canterbury, which 
he's never forgotten, would come forward and prosecute at 
once." 

" Tou — you might prove the forgery ; but how could you 
connect me with it ? " 

" JSTot bad, that. But I'm ready for you. People at the 
bank will prove you had the money ; and taken iu con- 
nection with the other little business, which is well known, 
and -which there are lots of people to prove, a jury would 
convict at once." 

Sir Charles Mitford shuddered, and buried his face in 
his hands. Then, looking up, said : " How much do you 
want for that bill r " 

" "Well, you see, that's scarcely the question. It's in the 
hands of a man who don't know its value, and if he did 
he'd open his mouth pretty wide, and stick it on pretty 
stiff, I can tell you. So we can let him bide a bit. Mean- 
time / know about it, and, as Tony told me, I intend to 
make it serve me. jNow you want to get rid of me, and 
don't want to see me for some little time ? I thought so. 
I'm not an extravagant cove ; give me fifty pounds." 

" Until that bill is destroyed, you will wring money from 
me when you choose." 

" If you refused me money and I cut up rough, the bill 
should be produced, and you'd be in quod and Queer Street 
in a jiffy ! Better do as I say — give me the fifty, and you 
shan't see me for a blue moon ! " 

Whether Sir Charles was stimulated by the period named 
or not, it is certain he sat down at his desk, and producing 
his cheque-book, began to write. Mr Effingham looked 
over his shoulder. 



WITAT HAD DETAINED SIR CHARLES. 81 

" Make it payable to some number — 295, or anything — 
not a name, please. And you needn't cross it. Lord ! you 
didn't take much trouble to disguise your fist when you put 
Walter Bur — , beg pardon ! quite forgot what I was say- 
ing. Thank you, Sir Charles. I'll keep my word all right, 
you shall see. I'm not an idle beggar; I'm always at 
something ; so that I shan't depend entirely on this bit of 
gray paper ; but it'll ease my springs and grease my wheels, 
a bit. G-ood-day to you, Sir Charles. Never mind ring- 
ing for that solemn cove to let me out; I ain't proud. 
G-ood-day " 

Mr Effingham gave a very elaborate bow, and departed. 
As the door shut upon him, Sir Charles Mitford pulled his 
chair to the fire, and fell into a deep reverie, out of which 
he did not rouse himself until his wife's return. 



CHAPTER VIII. 



KISMET. 



It was not because Laurence Alsager had been for a twelve- 
month in the East that he believed in the Mohammedan 
doctrine of fatalism. That had been an unacknowledged part 
of his creed long before the disappointment which sent 
him flying from the ordinary routine of life had fallen upon 
him. Even under that disappointment he allowed the 
power of the wondrous " to be," and, bowing to its influence, 
accepted his exile with far greater equanimity than many 
others would have done under similar circumstances. He 
had suffered his plans — undecided when he left England — 
to be entirely guided by chance ; had followed suggestions 
for his route made by hotel-landlords or conveyance-adver- 
tisements ; had dallied over one part of his journey and 
hurried over another, simply in obedience to the promptings 
of the feeling of the moment ; and had finally decided on 
returning to be present at the first night of Spofforth's play 

6 



82 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

at the Parthenium in the haphazard spirit which had 
prompted all his movements. 

His belief in Kismet had been enormously strengthened 
since his return. It was " arranged " that Lady Mitford 
should be present on the occasion in question ; that he 
should be presented to her after trying to avoid her and her 
party ; that Lord Dollamore should be at the Club, and 
should give utterance to those sentiments which had aroused 
so deep a disgust in Laurence's breast. As to the events 
of the next day, — the visit to Saunderson's, the drive to 
Acton, the trial of Sir Launcelot and its consequences, — 
therein was the most marvellous illustration of the doctrine 
of Kismet that ever he had yet seen. 

He thought of all this as he woke the next morning ; and 
clearly saw in an instant that it would be running directly 
contrary to his fate to go down to see his father just then. 
He felt impelled to remain in London, and in London he 
should stay. He felt — Ah, how beautiful she looked as he 
dragged her out from amidst the debris of the carriage and 
the plunging hoofs of the ponies, though her face was as 
pale as marble, and the light of her eyes was quenched be- 
neath the drooping lids ! It was Kismet that had kept 
that handsome oaf, her husband, at home, and prevented 
his interfering with the little romance. Not that Sir 
Charles Mitford was by any means an oaf; he was a man 
of less worldly experience, of less polish, of social standing, 
higher in rank, but decidedly lower in reputation, than 
Laurence ; and so Laurence regarded him as an oaf, and, 
since the pony-carriage adventure, began to find a little 
hatred mingling with the contempt with which he had pre- 
viously regarded the latest addition to the baronetage. 

This last feeling may have been in accordance with the 
rules of Kismet, but it certainly was not in accordance 
with the practice of the world. There were many men in 
his old regiment, and generally throughout the brigade of 
Guards, — men who, as professedly coureurs des dames, held 
that, for the correct carrying out of a flirtation with a 
married woman, an intimacy of a certain kind with the 
lady's husband was almost indispensable. And, though not 
good at argument, had they been put to it, they could have 



KISMET. 83 

indorsed their dicta with plenty of examples. They could 
have told of picnics improvised solely for the pleasure of 
madame's society, when monsieur was of the greatest assist- 
ance, the life and soul of the party, opening champagne, 
finding salt, cracking jokes ; the only man who could induce 
the gathered leaves to burst into a fire for kettle-boiling 
purposes ; the first to volunteer to sit in the rumble with 
the captains valet on the journey homewards. They could 
have told of visits paid in opera-boxes at a time when it 
was certain that monsieur was just smacking his lips over 
something peculiar in claret at a dinner at the Junior, 
specially given by the captain's brother- officer, the major. 
They could have told of capital fishing and excellent shoot- 
ing obtained by them for monsieur with a tendency in that 
direction ; stream or lake, moor or stubble, always happen- 
ing to be at a very remote distance from monsieur's family 
abode. There were even some of them who for the time 
being would thoroughly interest themselves in monsieur 
and his affairs, would bear with his children, would listen 
to his stories, would, on rare occasions, be seen about with 
him, and would, when very hard hit, invite him to the 
Windsor mess, or give him a seat in the Derby drag. 

But that sort of thing did not do for Laurence Alsager. 
Such a line of conduct might have suited him once ; but it 
would have been years ago, and with a very different style 
of wife and husband from Lady Mitford and Sir Charles. 
He could not think of her with any feeling that was not 
deeply tinged with respect, and that in itself was sufficient 
to remove this new passion from the category of his past 
loves. His new passion ? Yes ; he could not deny it to 
himself ; he felt a singular interest in this woman ; there 
was an attraction in her such as he had never experienced 
in any one else. He smiled as he recollected how in the 
bygone times he would have called her " cold " and " sta- 
tuesque ; " how he would have despised her slight figure, and 
thought her manners rustic, if not gauche. How he had 
sneered at love, as distinguished from intrigue, when he was 
a mere boy ; and now, at thirty, after thirteen years of 
hard life of all kinds — traces of which might be seen in a 
few lines round the eyes and on the forehead — he was 



84 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



lapsing into the calf-love which boys at school feel for the 
master's daughter. He laughed ; but he knew it was all 
true, nevertheless. 

He must see her that day, of course ; at least, he must 
call — mere politeness required so much after the events of 
the previous day. Meanwhile he would go down to the 
club, to read the papers and get some luncheon, and kill 
time, 

There were several men in the morning-room at the 
club, some of whom he had seen on the first night of his 
arrival, others whom he met now for the first time since 
his return. 

Lord Dollamore was there, his legs up on a sofa, reading 
a newspaper, with a very peculiar grin vipon his face. 

" Here he is ! " he said, looking towards the door as 
Laurence entered the room; "here's the man himself! 
"Why don't we have a band to play ' See the conquer- 
ing'*?" 

" So we ought, by Jove ! " said Cis Hetherington. 
" Hallo, Laurence, old boy ! no sling or anything ? " 

" Looks well after it, don't he ? " said another ; while 
several old gentlemen looked up from their newspapers, 
partly in admiration, partly in awe. 

" Fire away, gentlemen ! " said Laurence. " Be as funny 
as you please ; it's all lost upon me. What the deuce do 
you mean by ' sling,' Cis ? " 

" He's been so long away, that he's forgotten the Eng- 
lish language," sneered Dollamore. 

" O no, he hasn't, Lord Dollamore, as he'd quickly 
show you, were there the least, occasion," said Laurence. 
" But," added he more quietly, L ' what is the joke ? I give 
you my honour I don't know what you're talking about." 

" A lovely lady and a gallant knight ! Bring forth the 
steed! The accident; the leap; the rescue! Ha, ha! 
she's saved ! Slow music and curtain ! Stunnin' draymer 
it would make. I can introduce you to several enterprising 
managers if you'd like to tour in the provinces," said jolly 
Mr Wisconsin, who spent nearly all his time and two-third's 
.of his income amongst theatrical people. 

" Why, how on earth did that story get here ? " asked 



KJSMUT. 85 

Laurence, on whom the truth was begiiming slowly to 
dawn. 

'• Here ! why, it's all over town — all over England by 
this time. It's in the papers." 

" In the papers ! Ah, you're selling me." 

" Take it, and read for yourself," said Wisconsin. " Open 
the paper, and knock it back with your hand— that's the 
legitimate business." 

" Doosid well Alsager pretends to be astonished, don't 
he, considering he put that in the paper himself? " 

' : iN T o,he didn't do it himself; ho got Cis Hetherington to- 
do it." 

" Cis couldn't have spelt it," said Lord Dollamore. 
" There are some devilish, long words, over which Cis would 
have come a cropper." 

While his friends were thus pleasantly discussing him, 
Laurence was reading a remarkably full-flavoured and elo- 
quent description of a " Serious Accident and Gallant 
Conduct," as the paragraph was headed, in which Lady 
Mitford's name and his own figured amongst the longest- 
adjectives and most difficult adverbs. How the wildly- 
excited steeds dashed away at a terrific pace ; how the 
grasp of the lovely charioteer gradually relaxed, and how 
her control over the fiery animals was finally lost ; how the 
attendant groom did everything that strength and science 
in equine matters could suggest, until he was flung, stunned 
and breathless, into the mire ; and how finally, the gallant 
son of Mars, mounted on a matchless barb, came bounding 
over the hedge, and extricated the prostrate and palpitating 
form of the lovely member of the aristocracy from utter 
demolition at the hoofs of the infuriated animals. All this 
was to be found in the newspaper paragraph which Laurence 
was reading. This paragraph originated in a short story 
told by the groom in the bar of a public-house close to the 
mews, whither he had gone to solace himself with beer 
after the indignities he had suffered at Mr Spurrier's 
hands, and where he had the satisfaction of repeating it 
to a broken-down seedy man, who " stood " a pint, and 
who took short notes of the groom's conversation in a very 
greasy pocket-book. 



86 EUNNIN'G THE GAUNTLET. 

Laurence was horribly disgusted, as could be seen by 
the expression of his face, and the nervous manner in which 
he kept twisting the ends of his moustache. The amuse- 
ment of the other men was rather increased than diminished 
at his annoyance, and was at its height when Cis Hether- 
ington asked : 

"What the doose is a 'matchless barb,' Alsager ? I've 
seen all sorts of hacks in my time, but never met with one 
of that kind." 

" What do you mean by hacks ? " said another. " A 
barb is a fellow that writes plays, ain't it ? They call 
Shakespeare the immortal barb." 

" Ah, but they call him a Swan, and all kinds of things. 
There's no making out what a thing is by what they call him." 

Meanwhile Lord Dollamore had risen from the couch, 
and strolled over to the rug in front of the fire, where 
Laurence was standing. 

" You've begun your duties quickly, my dear Alsager. 
There are few fellows who get the chance of falling into 
their position so rapidly " 

" What position ? " 

" That of champion of beauty in distress." 

" Position ! I declare I don't follow you, my lord." 

" My dear Alsager, surely the East has not had the effect 
of rendering obtuse one of the keenest of men. Don't you 
recollect our talk the other night ? " 

" Perfectly." 

" When I then expressed my opinion that Lady Mitford 
would have to go through the usual amount of danger, of 
course I meant moral, not actual, peril. However, the 
actual seems to have come first." 

" Ye-es. A smashed carriage and plunging horses may, 
I suppose, be looked upon as actual danger." 

"Ah, she'll have worse things than those to contend 
against and encounter. You were lucky enough to save 
her from a fractured skull ; I suppose we shall see you 
doing- the ' sweet-little-cherub ' business, and watching over 
her generally, henceforth." 

" You seem to forget that Lady Mitford has a husband, 
Lord Dollamore." 



KISMET. 87 

" Not for an instant, my good fellow. But so has — 
well, Mrs Hammond — and so have lots of women ; but then 
the husbands are generally engaged in taking care of some- 
bod v else. "Well, well, to think that you should become a 
sheep-dog, — you whose whole early life was spent in 
worrying the lambs ! " 

" "Whose whole early life — that's it ! Quand le didble 
est vicux il se fait ermite ! " 

" Ye-es ; but if I were the husband of a very pretty 
young wife, I doubt whether I should particularly like you 
being her father confessor." 

" You need not alarm yourself, my lord ; I'm not going 
in for the position." 

" Qui a bu, boira, my dear Alsager. I distrust sudden 
conversions, and have no great reliance on sheep-dogs 
whose fangs are scarcely cleared of wool." 

Laurence might have replied somewhat sharply to this, 
had he heard it ; but he was off on his way to the coffee- 
room to his luncheon, which had been announced by the 
waiter ; that finished, he started off for Eaton Place. 

He had sufficient matter for reflection on his walk. This 
preposterous story which had crept into the papers would 
of course form a splendid subject of gossip for all those who 
had nothing better to do than to talk about such things. 
There was already a certain amount of interest attaching to 
the Mitfords from the fact of Sir Charles having inherited 
the baronetcy in a singular and unlooked-for manner, and 
from his wife's having had the audacity — although sprung 
from an unknown family — to have a beautiful face and 
agreeable manners. Eor this presumption Alsager felt that 
a terrible retribution was in store for her, poor child, when 
the regular season came on, and the dowagers brought up 
their saleable daughters to the market. Then the notion 
that a common country parson's daughter had been before- 
hand with them, and had carried off an unexceptionableparfi 
before he had been regularly advertised as ready for stalk- 
ing, would drive these old ladies to a pitch of rankling and 
venomous despair which would find vent in such taunts, hints, 
insinuations, and open lies as are only learnt in the great 
finishing-school of London society. Lady Mitford's beauty, 



OO RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

style, and position were in themselves quite sufficient to 
render her an object of dislike to nine-tenths of the other 
women in society, Avho would eagerly search for something 
against her, however slight it might be. Had not that un- 
fortunate accident and its result given them this " some- 
thing " ? Laurence had been too long amongst the ranks 
of nous autres not to recognize the meaning of the grins and 
winks which went round the assembled circle of club-men 
when the newspaper paragraph was read, not fully to under- 
stand every sneering inflexion of Lord Dollamore's voice. 
Thus was the sin of his youth visited on him in later life, 
with a vengeance. Hundreds of other men might have done 
exactly as he had — an act simply of manly impulse — without 
anything having been said about it save praise ; but with 
him, that infernal reputation for gallantry, of which he was 
once so proud, and which he now so intensely loathed, would 
set shoulders shrugging and eyebrows lifting at once. The 
old story ! Laurence Alsager again ! What else could be 
expected ? For an instant, as all these thoughts came rush- 
ing through his mind, he stopped short, wondering whether 
it would not be better to retrace his steps to the hotel, and 
to fulfil his first-formed resolution of paying a hurried visit 
to his father, and then quitting England at once. Tes ; it 
would be much better ; it Avould save any chance of scandal 
or talk, and — And yet he did not like to miss the chance of 
being thanked by those sweet eyes and that soft voice. He 
had thought so much of how she would look, not as he had 
hitherto seen her in full evening-dress or in her bonnet, but 
in that simple morning-costume in which all charming 
women look most charming. Besides, it was his duty as a 
gentleman to call, after the events of the previous day, and 
see whether she was suffering from any result of her ac- 
cident, or from any fright which might have arisen from it. 
Tes ; he would first call and see her, and then go away ; — ■ 
at least, he was not quite certain whether he would go away 
or not. He was not sure that it would not be far more ad- 
visable that he should stay in England, and be on the spot 
to put a stop at once to any preposterous talk that might 
arise ; and especially to watch over her in case of any at- 
tempts which might be made by men of the Dollamore class. 



KISMET. 89 

Lord Dollamoro was a most dangerous fellow, a man who 
would stick at nothing to gain his ends ; and what those 
ends were, it was, to a man of Alsager's experience, by no 
means difficult to imagine. Besides, he was merely the 
type of a class ; and if all he had stated about Sir Charles 
Mitford were really true, if the baronet were a man of dis- 
sqlute tastes and habits, and utterly unable to withstand the 
temptation which his wealth and position would at once 
open up to him, it was absolutely necessary that some one 
should be there to prevent his wife's falling a prey to the 
numerous libertines who would immediately attempt to take 
advantage of her husband's escapades, and ingratiate them- 
selves into her favour. 

When the wish is father not merely to the thought, but 
to the subsequent argument, it is by no means difficult to 
beat down and utterly vanquish the subtlest and most logical 
self-reasoning. Three minutes' reflection and balancing 
served to show Laurence how wrong he had been in think- 
ing of absenting himself at such a critical time ; and though 
for a moment the " still small voice " ventured to insinuate 
a doubt of the soundness of his argument, yet he felt that 
— leaving future events to take such course as they might 
ultimately fall into — it was at least his bounden duty to go 
then and inquire after Lady Mitford ; and onwards he pro- 
ceeded. 

Lady Mitford was at home. In a charming drawing- 
room — everything in it bearing evidence of exquisite 
womanly taste, — he found her, dressed, as he expected, in 
the most lovely of morning-costumes- — a high violet-silk 
dress with a simple linen collar and cuffs ; her hair per- 
fectly plain, showing the small classic head in all its beauty : 
she looked to him the loveliest creature he had ever seen. 
She rose at the announcement of his name, and came for- 
ward with a pleasant smile on her face and with outstretched 
hand. Laurence noticed— not, perhaps, without a little 
disappointment — that there was not the smallest sign of a 
blush on her cheek, nor the slightest tremor in her 
voice. 

" I'm so glad to see you, Colonel Alsager," she said 
frankly ; " I'm sure I've thought a hundred times since we 



90 



EUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



parted of my gaucherie in not thanking you sufficiently for 
the real service you did me yesterday." 

" Pray don't say another word about it, Lady Mitford ; 
it was a simple duty which merits no further mention." 

" Indeed, I don't think so. It was a very gallant act in 
itself, and one which, so far as I'm concerned, renders me 
your debtor for life." 

" The acknowledgment cancels the obligation. I only 
trust you are none the worse for the mishap." 

" Thank you, not in the least. . I was a little shaken and 
unstrung by the fall, and rather stupid yesterday evening, 
I'm inclined to think ; but the night's rest has set me per- 
fectly right. You know I'm country-bred, and therefore 
what my husband would call in good condition ; and I've 
had so many tumbles off ponies, and been upset so many 
times in our Devonshire lanes by papa, — who, I'm afraid, is 
not a very good whip, bless him ! — that I'm not entirely un- 
used to such accidents." 

" That accounts for your pluck, then. I never saw any 
one go through what — now it's over — I may say was a very 
ugly runaway, with more perfect calmness." 

" Ah, that's what I wanted to ask you. I lost my head 
just as we started down that descent, and knew nothing 
afterwards. I do so hope I didn't scream." 

" Tou may make yourself thoroughly easy on that score. 
You were perfectly mute." 

" I am delighted at that ! " she laughed out with childish 
;lee. " Charley asked me the very first thing whether I 
hadn't ' yelled out,' as he called it ; and I told him I 
thought not. It was very weak of me to faint, and I fought 
against it as long as I could ; but I felt it must come, and 
it did." 

" You would have been more than woman if you could 
have deprived yourself of that treat," said Laurence smil- 
ing. " How is Sir Charles ? " 

" Well, not very well. I fancy that this accident has up- 
set him very much, poor fellow. I think he blames himself 
for having allowed me to go without him ; and yet he 
couldn't come, as he had some horrid man here on business. 
But he's been very dull and preoccupied ever since. He'll 



t> 



KISMET. 91 

be annoyed at having missed you, as he went out specially 
to call and thank you for your great kindness. We did not 
know your address, and he went down to Mr Bertram's 
office to get it from him." 

" Oh, Bertram is a very old friend of mine. It was from 
him I first heard of you." 

" Tes, he knew Charley at Oxford. He is a kind gentle 
creature, I should think ; a man that it must be impossible 
for any one to dislike. And really his silence is sometimes 
anything but disagreeable — at a theatre, you know, and that 
sort of thing." 

" Silence ! I can assure you, Lady Mitford, that when 
you are the theme of his discourse, he is a perfect Demos- 
thenes. ' The common mouth, so gross to express delight, 
in praise of her grew oratory,' as Tennyson says. He is one 
of your stanchest admirers." 

Lady Mitford looked uncomfortable and a little vexed, 
as she said, " Indeed ! " then smiled again as she added, 
" You also have the effect of loosening the dumb man's 
tongue. In Mr Bertram you have the loudest of trumpet- 
ers. In fact, ever since he heard from you of your intended 
return, we have grown almost tired of hearing of your good 
qualities." 

" I hope you won't banish me, as the Athenians did Aris- 
tides for the same reason. Old George is one of the best 
fellows living. Do you know many people now in town, 
Lady Mitford ? " 

" No, indeed. Our Devonshire neighbours have not 
come up yet, and will not, I suppose, until Parliament meets. 
And then Sir Charles having been- — been away for some 
time, and I not having lived in society, we scarcely know 
anybody yet ; at least, I mean — I — some of Charley's old 
friends have found us out. Mr Bertram, Captain Bligh and 
Major "Winton, and Lord Dollamore." 

" Ah, Lord Dollamore ! yes, to be sure. And what, if it's 
a fair question, do you think of Lord Dollamore ? " 

Oeorgie laughed. " It certainly is not a fair question, 
and if Charley were here, I should not be alloAved to answer 
it; but I don't mind telling you, Colonel Alsager, that I 
have a great horror of Lord Dollamore." 



92 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

Laurence smiled grimly, but with the greatest inward 
satisfaction, as he said, " Poor Dollamore ! And will you 
tell me why you have a horror of him, Lady Mitford ? " 

" I can scarcely say. I'm sure I ought not to have it, as 
he is always studiously polite to me ; hut there is something- 
strange to me in his manner and in his conversation, some- 
thing such as I have never met with before, and which, though 
I don't comprehend it, rouses my antipathy and makes me 
shudder. I never know what to say to him either, and he 
always seems to be watching every word that you speak. 
Now you're laughing at me, Colonel Alsager ; and I can't 
explain what I mean." 

Her cheeks flushed as she said this, and the heightened 
colour added to her beauty. Laurence found himself star- 
ing mutely at her, in sheer wonderment at her loveliness ; 
then roused himself and said, " Indeed, I was not laughing, 
and I can fully comprehend you. ]S"ow r tell me ; the ponies 
are none the worse for their race ? " 

Not much. One has a cut fetlock, and both have had a 
good deal of hair rubbed off; but nothing to signify. I was 
round in the stables the first thing this morning, and came 
in great glee to tell Charley how little harm had been done 
to them. But he's dreadfully angry about it, and declares 
they shall both be sent away. And all because I was too 
weak to hold them." 

" Well, I should like to be on your side ; but I don't 
think your husband is very far wrong in the present- 
instance. They are plainly unfit for any lady's driving, 
unless she is what no lady w r ould like to be, — undeniably 
horsey, and masculine, so far at least as her wrists are con- 
cerned." 

" Ah, and your horse ; that splendid fellow that took 
the tremendous leap, — Mr Saunderson told me this ; I 
knew nothing of it at the time, — what of him ? " 

" Oh, he's wonderfully well. He landed splendidly ; 
but just heeled over for a second and touched his knees, — 
the merest graze, and that all through my clumsiness ; 
but I was too much excited at the time to attend to him. 
But it's a mere hair-scratch, and he'll be as right as ever in 
a week or two." 



KISMET. 93 

" Well, the whole thing seems to mo like a dream ; but a 
dream from which I should never have woke, had it not 
been lor your promptitude and presence of mind. Those I 
have said I shall never forget ; and — Now here comes 
Charley to indorse my gratitude." 

As she spoke, a heavy tread was heard on the staircase ; 
the door opened, and Sir Charles Mitford entered, full of 
life and radiant with happiness. Any preoccupation or 
anxiety, for which his wife had prepared her visitor, seemed 
entirely to have disappeared. He advanced with open 
hand, and in his cheeriest manner said, " My dear Alsager, 
delighted to see you ! A thousand thanks, my dear fellow, 
• — much more than I can express, — for your conduct yester- 
day ! I've heard all about it, and know how much I owe 
to you. Tremendous pluck ! yes, I know ; you needn't 
pretend to be modest about it. I've been round to 
Saunderson's, and seen Spurrier ; and he tells me that it 
was just one of the pluckiest things ever done. You staked 
the horse, or did something damaging to him, didn't you ? 
so of course I told Spurrier to enter him in my account." 

"You're very good ; but you're a little late, Sir Charles. 
I bought him on the spot, and would not part with him for 
treble his price." 

Laurence could not resist stealing a glance at Lady Mit- 
ford as he said this. Her eyes were doAvncast ; but a 
bright red spot burned on her cheeks, and her brows Avere 
contracted. 

" Well, you've the right of refusal, and you know a good 
fencer when you see one, Alsager, I know. I only wished 
to have the horse as a memento of the day " 

Laurence muttered something inaudible. 

" I went down to call upon you, to thank you for all 
your kindness to my wife," continued Sir Charles ; " and 
then finding I didn't know your address, I looked up Ber- 
tram at the Foreign Office ; and after being handed about 
from one room to another, I found him, and he took me to 
your hotel. Don't seem to have much to do, those fellows 
at the Foreign Office. Bertram had only just arrived ; but 
he left immediately when I told him I wanted him to come 
with me," 



94 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



" I'm very sorry I was not at home." 

" Well, so was I partly, and partly not. Of course I 
should hare wished to have given you my thanks for your 
kindness the very first thing ; but then of course you un- 
derstand that I meant all that. When a man rescues 
another man's wife from tremendous danger, of course he 
understands that her husband is tremendously thankful to 
him, unless it's in a book or play, or that kind of thing, 
where husbands wish their wives were dead. And then 
again, if you had been in, I should have missed being intro- 
duced to such a charming woman." 

" To such a what, Charley ? " asked Lady Mitford. 

" Oh, don't you be frightened, dear ; it's all square and 
above-board. She asked me if she might call upon you ; 
and she'll be here to-morrow or the next day ; so mind 
you're at home to receive her." 

"Her? who?" 

" O yes, I forgot. I'll tell you all about it. When we 
found Alsager was not at his hotel, Bertram evidently 
didn't want to go back to his office, so he proposed a stretch 
round the Park. I said I was quite agreeable, and off we 
started ; right round the Oxford Street side, back by the 
powder-magazine, and so into the Drive. When we got 
there, there was not a single trap to be seen — not one, I 
give you my honour ; but as we stumped along, and Ber- 
tram — most delightful companion ! — never opened his 
mouth, I saw a pair of bright chesnuts in black harness 
come whirling a low pony-phaeton along ; and as it passed, 
Bertram took off his hat to the lady driving. She pulled 
up, and we went to the trap, and Bertram introduced me. 
She was a very pretty little woman, and had a sable cloak ; 
— you must have a sable cloak, Oeorgie; I'll find out where 
she got hers ; — and there was another woman whom I 
could not see — kept her veil down, and looked like com- 
panion or something of that sort — sitting by her. She 
certainly drove splendidly. I couldn't help thinking if 
she'd had those grays of yours yesterday, Oeorgie, she'd 
have mastered them." 

" I sincerely wish she had," said Lady Mitford with a 
little petulance ; " I can't say I entirely relish the adven- 



KISMET. 95 

ture, even though it called forth Colonel Alsager's assist- 
ance." [" That's a thorough woman's blow," thought 
Laurence, listening.] " But you haven't told us the name 
of this charming Amazon." 

" I don't know anything about Amazon or not," said Sir 
Charles, who began to be a little bit nettled ; " the lady's 
name is Hammond — Mrs Hammond, wife of a man who 
was something in the government service. Ah, you know 
her, Alsager. Tes, by the way, I recollect her asking Ber- 
tram whether you had come back." 

The mention of Mrs Hammond's name seemed to throw 
rather a damp upon the conversation. Lady Mitford did 
not appear in the least to share her husband's rhapsodies, — 
as how should she, being ignorant of their object ? — and 
Colonel Alsager's expression was moody, and his voice 
silent. But when he rose to take his leave the expressions 
of gratitude were renewed both by husband and wife, each 
in their peculiar manner — Sir Charles was boisterously 
hearty ; Lady Mitford quietly impressive. 

" We shall see a good deal of you now, I hope, Alsager ; 
you won't stand on any ridiculous ceremony, or anything 
of that sort, but come in and out just as you like. There's 
no one who will be more welcome here, and no one who's 
earned the right so much, for the matter of that. It rests 
with you now entirely how far you pursue the acquaint- 
ance." 

" Good-bye, Colonel Alsager," said Lady Mitford with a 
sweet smile ; " and I'll promise, when you do come to see 
us, not to give you so much trouble as I did yesterday." 

Laurence was equally averse to commonplaces and to 
committing himself, so he bowed and smiled, and went 
away. 

" Kismet," he muttered to himself as he strode down the 
street, — " Kismet in full force. Laura Hammond back in 
England, and an acquaintance formed between her and Mit- 
ford already. Taken with her, he seemed too. She's just 
the woman that would fetch such a man as he. Well, let 
Kismet do its worst ; I shall stand by and see the play." 



96 

CHAPTEE IX. 

mr Effingham's proceedings. 

When Mr Effingham found himself with fifty pounds in his 
pocket outside the bank where he had changed Sir Charles 
Mitford's cheque, he could scarcely contain his exultation. 
His dealings with bankers had been few, and not always 
satisfactory. He had had cheques in his possession which 
he had been too bashful to present in his own proper person, 
but had employed a little boy to take to the counter while 
he waited round the corner of an adjacent street ; he had 
had cheques which he had presented himself, but the pro- 
ceeds of which, when asked " how he would have," he had 
always taken in gold, as a more convenient and untraceable 
medium. On the present occasion, however, he had walked 
boldly in ; had rapped on the counter, to the horror and 
dismay of the old gentleman behind it ; had handed over 
his cheque with a swagger, and taken half the change in 
clean crisp notes of the Bank of England. All right now; 
all straight and above-board. Old Mr Coverdale, solicitor 
to the banking-firm, passing through the public office on 
his way to the private parlour, peered at Mr Effingham, 
under his bushy grey eyebrows curiously ; but Mr Effing- 
ham did not mind that. The porter sitting on a very hard 
stool just inside the swing doors rubbed his nose and winked 
significantly at the policeman in plain clothes stationed just 
outside the swing-doors, whose duty was to help rich old- 
lady customers in and out of their carriages. Both porter 
and policeman stared very hard at Mr Effingham, and Mr 
Effingham returned the stare with all the eye-power at his 
command. What did he care ? They might call him back 
and inspect the cheque if they liked, and then they would 
see what they would get for attempting to molest a' gentle- 
man. 

In his character of gentleman, Mr Effingham felt that 
his costume was scarcely so correct as it might have been ; 



mb Effingham's pkocekdinu!*. 97 

in fact, that in the mere quality of being weather-tight it 
was lamentably deficient. So his first proceeding was to 
visit an outfitter's, and then and there to procure what he 
termed " a rig-out " of the peculiar kind most in accordance 
with his resonant taste. The trousers were of such an 
enormous check pattern that, as the Jew tailor humor- 
ously remarked, " it would take two men to show it ; " the 
hat shone like a bad looking-glass ; the coat, though some- 
what baggy in the back, was glossy, and had a cotton-velvet 
collar ; and the Lowther- Arcade jewelry glistened in the 
midst of a bird's-eye scarf of portentous height and stiff- 
ness. 

His outer man satisfied, Mr Effingham thought it time 
to attend to his inner ; and accordingly turned into a City 
chop-house of renown, where his elegant appearance made 
an immense impression on the young stockbroking gents 
and the junior clerks from the banks and Mincing-Lane 
houses, who commented, in no measured tones, and with a 
great deal of biting sarcasm, on the various portions of his 
costume. Either not hearing or not heeding this banter, 
Mr Effingham ordered a point steak and potatoes and a 
pint of stout ; all of which he devoured with an appearance 
of intense relish. An old gentleman sitting in the same 
box opposite to him had a steaming glass of fragrant punch, 
the aroma of which ascended gratefully into Mr Effingham's 
nostrils and almost impelled him to order a similar jorum; 
but prudence stepped in, and he paid his bill and departed. 
Not that he did not intend to indulge in that after-dinner" 
grog, which was customary with him whenever he had the 
money to pay for it himself, or the luck to get anybody to 
pay for it for him ; but he wished to combine business with 
pleasure ; and so started off for another tavern nearer the 
West End, where he knew the combination could be accom- 
plished. 

The chosen place of Mr Effingham's resort, though pro- 
perly designated the Brown Bear, was known to all its 
frequenters as " Johnson's," from its proprietor's name. It ; 
was a commonplace public-house enough, in a street leading 
out of the Strand, and sufficiently near the large theatres 
and newspaper offices for its parlour to be the resort of 

7 



98 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

actors and press-men of an inferior grade. The more 
eminent in both professions " used" the Rougepot in Salad 
Tard, a famoiis old place that had been a house of call for 
actors, wits, and men-of-letters for generations, and where 
strangers seldom penetrated. The habitues of " Johnson's " 
were mostly young men just affiliated to their professions, 
and not particularly careful as to their associates ; so that 
you frequently found in Johnson's parlour a sprinkling of 
questionable characters, men who hung on to the selvage of 
theatrical life, betting-book keepers, and card-sharpers. The 
regular frequenters did not actually favour these men, but 
they tacitly allowed their presence, and occasionally would 
join in and listen to their conversation, from which they 
gleaned new notions of life. 

"When Mr Effingham pushed open the parlour-door and 
looked into the room on the afternoon in which he had con- 
ducted his banking operation with such signal success, the 
place was almost deserted. The large corner-boxes by the 
fire, where the professional gentlemen usually congregated, 
were empty ; but at a table in the far end of the room were 
seated two men, at sight of whom Mr Effingham's face 
brightened. They were flashily-dressed, raffish-looking 
men, smoking rank cigars, and busily engaged in comparing 
betting-books. 

" Hollo ! " said one of them, looking up at the noise made 
by the opening of the door ; " I'm blessed if here ain't 
D'Ossay Butler ! And the regular D'Ossay cut too — sprucer 
than ever ; might pass for the Count himself, blowed if you 
mightn't, D'Ossay ! " 

" "What's happened to the little cove now, I wonder ? " 
said the other, a thin man with a shaved face and a tall hat, 
which he had great difficulty in keeping on his head ; 
" what's happened to him now ? Has he stood-in on a 
steeple-chase, or robbed a bank ? Look at his togs ! What 
a slap-up swell he is ! " 

Mr Effingham received these compliments with great 
equanimity, sat down by his friends, and seeing their glasses 
empty, said : " Any lap ? I'm game to stand anything 
you like to put a name to ; " rang the bell for the waiter^ 
and ordered three nines of brandy hot. 



mr Effingham's proceedings. 99 

" What nn out-and-out little cove it is ! " repeated the 
first man with great admiration. "Well, tell us, D'Ossay, 
all about it. How did it come off? What was it ? " 

" Come off ! " said Mr Effingham ; " what do you mean ? 
Nothing's come off that I know of ; at least nothing par- 
ticular. You know that gentleman in the City that I told 
you of, Griffiths ? " he asked, with a private wink at the 
man in the high hat. 

" I know him fast enough," replied that worthy with a 
nod, partly confirmatory, partly to keep the tall hat on his 
head. " Did he pull through in that matter ? " 

" Pull through ! " said Mr Effingham ; he won a lot of 
money ; and as I'd given him the office, and put him on a 
good thing, he said he'd behave handsome ; and he didn't do 
amiss, considerin.' " 

" What did he part with ? " asked the first man. 

" A tenner." 

The first man's eyes glistened, and he instantly made up 
his mind to borrow half-a-sovereign if he could get it — five 
shillings if he could not — of Effingham before they parted. 

" Ah, and so you went and rigged yourself out in these 
swell togs, D'Ossay, did you, at once ? Tou always had 
the notions of a gentleman, and the sperrit of a gentleman, 
that's more. I wish you'd put me on to something of that 
kind ; but, there, it wants the way to carry it out ; and I 
haven't got that, I know well enough." 

While this speech was in progress, Mr Effingham had 
caught the eye of the tall man, and winking towards their 
friend, pointed over his shoulder at the door. The tall man 
repeated the nod that did the double duty, and after looking 
up at the clock, said, " You'd better be off, Jim ; you'll be 
just in time to catch that party down at Peter Crawley's, if 
you look sharp." 

Jim, thus admonished, finished his grog and took his leave, 
asking Mr Effingham if he could have " half a word " with 
him outside ; which half-word resulted in the extraction of 
a half-sovereign, as Jim had predetermined. 

"Now for it," said Griffiths, as soon as Effingham re- 
turned, " I'm death to hear all that's happened, only that 
fool wouldn't go. Wanted something, of course, outside, 



100 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



eh ? Ah, thought so. "What did you square him 

for ? " 

" Half-a-couter." 

" Tou appear to be making the shiners spin, Master D'Os- 
say ; that swell at the West End must have bled pretty 
handsome. Tell us all about it. "What did he stand ? " 

" "Well, I won't try and gammon you. He stood fifty." 

" What, on the mere gab ? without your showing him the 
stiff, and only telling him you knew about it ? Fifty quid ! 
that's a cow that'll give milk for many a long year, Master 
D'Ossay, if only properly handled. Come, hand us over 
what you promised for putting you on. " By George ! " 
he added, as Effingham drew a bundle of notes from his 
pocket, " how nice and crisp they sound ! " 

" There's your tenner," said Effingham, selecting a note 
from the roll and handing it to his friend ; " I'm always as 
good as my word. That squares us up so far." 

" ]N"o fakement about it, is there ? " said Mr Griffiths, 
first holding the note up to the light, then spreading it flat 
on the table, and going carefully over it back and front. 
'• I've been dropped in the hole too often by flimsies not 
to be precious careful about em. No. Matthew Marshall 
■ — all them coily things in the water-mark and that ; all 
right. I think you ought to make it a little more ; I do, 
indeed." 

" Make it a little more ! I like that. "Why, what the 
devil could you have done without me ? It's true you first 
heard of the coppered stiff from Tony ; but you didn't trouble 
a bit about it. AVho set all the boys to hunt up this cove ? 
who found him at last ? and who walked in as bold as brass 
this morning, and cheeked him out of fifty quid without a 
stitch of evidence ? Why, you daredn't have gone to his 
crib, to start with ; and if you had, he'd never have seen 
you ; the flunkey would have kicked you out for an area- 
sneak or a gonoph. "Why, even I had some bother to get 
in ; so what would have become of you ? " 

Mr Effingham was only a little man, but he swelled so 
with self-importance as, in the eyes of his companion, to 
look very big indeed. He bounced and swaggered and spoke 
so loud as quite to quell the imfortunate Griffiths, who 



]UR epfinciitam's proceedings, lol 

began, with duo submission, to apologize for his own short- 
comings and deprecate his friend's wrath. 

""Well, I know all that fast enough, and I only just 
hinted ; but you're down upon a cove so. However, it's a 
fine thing for us both, ain't it ? He'll be aw good as a bank 
to us for years to come, will this swell." 

" I'm not so sure of that," said Mr EfEngham thought- 
fully. 

" How do you mean, not so sure of that ? " asked Grif- 
fiths. 

'• "Well, you see, he's a long way off being a fool ; he's 
not half so soft as Tony led us to believe. He downed on 
me once or twice as quick as lightning ; and I think it was 
only my way of putting it, and his being taken sudden on 
the hop, that made him shell out." 

'• You think that after he's thought the matter over he'll 
fancy he's been a flat ? " 

'• Well, not exactly that. You see the higher a fellow 
climbs the worse it is when he falls. This Mitford wouldn't 
have cared a cuss for this thing in the old days ; he'd have 
stood the racket of it easy. But it's different now ; he's a 
big swell ; its ' Sir Charles ' and ' my Lady,' pony-phe-aton 
and 'orses and grooms, nice wife, and all that. He'd come 
an awful smasher if anything was to trip him up just now, 
and he knows it. That's our hold upon him." 

" And that's what will make it easy for us to squeeze 
him." 

" Xo, not entirely. That very fear of being blown upon, 
of having to bolt or stand a trial — my eye ! how blue he 
turned when I mentioned Norfolk Island to him ! — that 
very fear will make him most anxious to get rid of every 
chance of coming to grief, to prevent any one being able to 
lay hold of him." 

•' There's only one way for him to do that, and that's to 
burn the bill." 

" Yes ; but he must get it first, and that's what he'll 
want, you may take your oath. The next time I go to 
him, it'll be, ' AVhcre is it? let mc see it ! name your out- 
side price, and let me have it ! ' That's what he'll say " 
i: Likely enough ; and what'll you say then ? " 



102 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

" Cussed if I know ! " said Mr Effingham ruefully. " If 
I say I haven't got it, he'll stop the supplies until I bring 
it ; if I say I can't get it, not another mag from him." 

" You must fall back on the bounce, like you did to-day, 
and tell him you know of there bein' such a thing, and that 
you won't keep your mouth shut unless you're paid for it." 

" Oh, you're a leery cove, Griffiths, you are ! " said Mr 
Effingham with great disgust. " You never heard of at- 
temptin' to extort money, did you ? You don't think he'd 
ring the bell and send for a bobby, do you ? " 

" No, I don't. He wouldn't have the pluck." 

" Oh, but I do though ; and as you see it's me that the 
bobby would lay hold of, I'm rather pertickler about it. 
Besides, it's not such a pleasant thing finding yourself at 
Bow Street ; for even if one could square this Mitford and 
get him not to prosecute, there'd be heaps of bobbies there 
to prove previous convictions. Clark of the G's getting 
up : ' Known as D'Ossay Butler, your worship. I had 
him for passing base coin in '43 ; ' and all that kind of 
game. ]STo, no, Griffiths ! bounce won't do, my boy ; won't 
do a bit." 

" What will do, then ? what shall we try ? Shall we 
shy up the sponge and think ourselves lucky to have got 
this fifty, and never try him any more ? That seems hard 
lines with such a chance." 

" It would be ; and we won't do it. No ; there's only 
one thing to be done — we must go the whole hog ; we must 
have the bill." 

" Ah ! and we must have lamb and green peas in Eeboo- 
ary ; and a patent shofle cab to ride in, so as not to tire 
ourselves ; and pockets full of 'alf-bulls to toss with ! "We 
must ; but you see we 'aven't, D'Ossay, my boy ! And as 
for gettin' that bill, we're done at the very first step : we 
don't know who's got it." 

" You fool ! if we did know who'd got it we'd have it, 
fast enough. There ain't many of 'em that could keep it 
away from me ! " 

" You are a plucked 'un ! " said Griffiths, regarding him 
with admiration ; " I can't help sayin' so, though you do 
lose your temper and call your friends ugly names. No ; 



ME EFFINGHAM'S PROCEEDINGS. 103 

I don't think there is many as could keep you off it if you 
knew -where it was. But how we're ever to find that I 
can't tell." 

" Let's go over the business all again," said Effingham. 
" It was Tony that always had a fancy for that bit of stiff. 
He stuck to it when it wasn't worth more than the stamp 
and the paper it was wrote on ; but he always thought 
something would come of this Mitford, and then it would 
be a first-class screw to put on him, and make him do as 
Tony liked. But you see he died before anything turned 
up ; and though he told you about the stiff, he didn't say 
where it was." 

" He wouldn't. I asked him scores of times ; but he 
always said ' Time enough for that,' he says, or ' That'll 
keep ; ' he says. He was a mistrustful cove was Tony, — 
always suspecting people." 

" Ah, he'd seen a good deal of the world, Griffiths. "What 
an infernal nuisance I hadn't got back from Tankeeland 
before he popped off ! I'd have had it out of him. Who 
took his traps after his death ? " 

" Well, old Lyons had 'em, I think. There wasn't much ; 
two or three boxes and a little dressin'-case, — for Tony, 
though not such a swell as you, D'Ossay, was always natty 
and spruce, — and a walkin' -stick or two. Old Lyons had 
lent Tony money, and stood in with him generally ; and 
after he stepped it, old Lyons cleared off the things." 

" Do you know where to find old Lyons ? " 

" Beethur ! Why ? " 

" We'll go there next week when I come back to town. 
Tou may take your oath he's got the bill ; and if he's heard 
nothing about Mitford's fortune, we may get it for next to 
nothing." 



CHAPTER X. 

SOUVENT FEMME VARIE. 



No ; Laurence Alsager was certainly not best pleased at all 
he heard about Mrs Hammond. Mrs Hammond, a pretty 



104 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

little woman, coming to call upon you — great Heaven ! Is 
that the way that that oaf Mitford talked of her who two 
years ago was Laura Molyneux, the mere mention of whose 
name caused Alsager to thrill to his finger-tips ; and whose 
low trainante voice, long steady passionate glances, and 
rippling shoulders could have led him to destruction ? 
Drove her chestnuts well, eh ? Yes, by Jove ! there were few 
women could touch her either in riding or driving, and — 
Laurence laughed grimly to himself as he strode along. 
What was it Dollamore had said about Mitford' s readiness 
to go to the bad, to shake a loose leg, to enjoy those 
advantages of health, wealth, and position which had before 
been denied to him ? Why, here was the very woman to en- 
snare him, to act as his evil genius, the very counter-charm 
of Lady Mitford' s quietude and girlish grace ; a woman of 
the world, bright, sharp, active, and alert ; with plenty of 
savoir faire, an enormous talent for flirtation, and not the 
smallest scrap of heart to throw into the balance against any 
of her whims. ~No, by George, not a scrap. Laurence be- 
thought him of a certain December morning in Kensington 
Gardens, and the whole scene rose vividly before him. The 
trees all stripped and bare, and stridently clanging in the 
bitter wind ; the thick dun clouds hanging over the horizon; 
the greatcoated park-keeper stamping vigorously over the 
gravel, and banging himself with his arms with vague no- 
tions of generating caloric ; and he himself pacing up and 
down by Laura Molyneux's side. The arguments he had 
used, the very phrases which lie had employed to induce 
her to reconsider the determination then announced to him, 
were ringing in his ears. He recollected how he had hum- 
bled himself, how lie had implored her to reconsider her de- 
cision, how even lie had begged for time, -and how he had 
been met with one stern pitiless refusal ; and Low he had 
gone away to weep bitter tears of mortified pride, and 
rejected love, and savage disappointment ; and how she had 
stepped into the neat little brougham waiting for her at the 
gate, and been whirled off to accept the hand and heart of 
Mr Percy Hammond, a retired civil-servant from India, 
a widower with one daughter, who had shaken the pagoda- 



SOUVENT FEMME VATCJE. 105 

tree to some purpose and returned to England with a colos- 
sal fortune. 

That was ilie then finale of the intimacy between Laura 
Molyneux and Laurence Alsager. In the course of the next 
week he started on his tour ; in the course of the next 
month St George's, Hanover Scpiare, was the scene of her 
marriage, — a bishop welding the chains. And now two years 
had elapsed, and he was back in London, pretty much the 
same as if he had never left it ; and she was asking whether 
he had returned, and he had begun to feel a great interest 
in Lady Mitford ; and Sir Charles Mitford evidently 
thought Mrs Hammond a most delightful person, and every 
thing was a tort et a travers, as it has been, is, and always 
shall be, in the great world of London. 

Xiladmirari is the motto on which your precocious youth 
piques himself ; but which is adopted in all due seriousness 
and sobriety by the calm student of life. Who wonders at 
anything ?— at the peevishness of your wife ; at the ingra- 
titude of the child for whom you have pinched and slaved ; 
at the treachery of the one familiar friend ; at the enormous 
legacy left you by the uncle whose last words to you were 
that you were a jackanapes, and, so far as he was concerned, 
should be a beggar ? The man of the world is surprised at 
nothing ; he is not Vhomme blase of the caricaturist ; he is 
not an atom astonished at finding nothing in anything ; on 
the contrary, he finds plenty of novelty in every variety of 
life ; but nothing wdiich may happen to him excites the 
smallest wonderment on his part. So that when Colonel 
Alsager walked into the Guards club to dinner, and re- 
ceived from the hall-porter a small note with an address in 
a handwriting perfectly familiar to him, he Avas not in the 
least surprised. 

But he looked at the note, and twisted it between his 
fingers, and even put it into his w^aistcoat pocket, as he 
walked up to the table whereon stood the framed menu, and 
left it there while he walked round and spoke to two or 
three men who were already at dinner ; and it was not until 
he was comfortably seated at his little table, and had eaten 
a few mouthfuls of soup, that he took it from his pocket, 



106 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

leisurely opened it, and bringing the candle within range, 
began to read it. Even then he paused for a moment, re- 
collecting with what heart-throbs of anxiety and sensations 
of acute delight he used to read the previous epistles from 
the same source ; then, as with an effort, he set himself to 
its perusal. 

It was very short. 

" I shall be at home to-morrow at three, and hope to see 
you. I hear all sorts of rumours, which you alone can 
solve. Chi non sa niente noil dubita di nienie ! It will be 
for you to read the riddle. L." 

He smiled outright as, after reading it and restoring it 
to his pocket, he said to himself, " The old story ; she 
always made a mystery when there was no other excitement; 
but I'll go, for all that." 

During his wildest times, Laurence had always been a 
punctual man ; and even the irregular manner of his life 
during the two last years had not altered him in this re- 
spect. On the next afternoon, as the clock was striking 
three, he presented himself at Mrs Hammond's door, and 
was immediately admitted and shown into her presence. 

He was apparently a little too punctual ; for a tall young- 
woman, looking half lady, half nursery-governess, was 
standing by her and listening respectfully. Mrs Hammond 
rose at the announcement of the Colonel's name, and com- 
ing forward, pressed his cold motionless hand with a tight 
grasp. 

" Pray excuse me for one instant, Colonel Alsager," said 
she ; " the doctors have said that we were all wrong in 
leaving Florence ; that it's impossible Mr Hammond can 
remain in London during this awful weather, and that he 
must go at once to Torquay. So I'm sending Miss Gilles- 
pie down there to get a house for us, and arrange matters 
before we go down. — Now, Ruth," turning to her, " I don't 
think there's any more to say. Not facing the sea, recol- 
lect, and a six-stall stable aud double coach-house. Tou 
know all about the rest, — bed-rooms, and those sort of things, 
— and so good-bye." 



60UVENT FEMME VARIE. 107 

Miss Gillespie touched lightly the outstretched tips of 
Mrs Hammond's fingers, bowed gracefully to Laurence, and 
departed. 

Mrs Hammond watched the door close again, and ob- 
viously ill at ease, turned to Laurence, and said : " Miss 
Gillespie is the most invaluable person. She came at first 
as governess to Miss Hammond ; but she has really made 
herself so useful to me, that I don't know what I should do 
without her. Housekeepers and all regular servants are so 
stupid ; and I hate trouble so." 

She stopped, and there was a dead silence. Mrs Ham- 
mond coloured, and said: " Have you nothing to say, Colonel 
Alsager ? " 

" On the subject of Miss Gillespie, nothing. If you sent 
for me to expatiate to me on Miss Gillespie's virtues, I am 
sorry ; for my time could have been better employed." 

" Than in coming to see me ? Tou did not think so 
once." 

" Then we didn't talk about Miss Gillespie. Your note 
said that you had heard rumours, or riddles, which you 
wanted me to explain. "What have you heard ? " 

" In a word, nothing. I wrote the first thing that came 
into my mind because I wanted to see you, Laurence Alsa- 
ger. Because I have hungered to see you for two years ; 
to hear your voice, to — Tou were at Vienna ? at Ischl ? 
and at Trieste ? " 

" I was at all three — some little time at each." 

" Tou saw the Times occasionally on your travels ? " 

" While I remained in Europe, frequently. O yes, Laura, 
I received all your letters at the places you mention ; and 
I saw the advertisement in the Times, under the signature 
and with the ciphers by which we used to correspond in the 
old days." 

" And why did you take no notice ? " 

" Because my love for you was gone and dead ; because 
I was tired of being dragged about and shown-off, and made 
to display the abject state of docility to which you had re- 
duced me. I told you all this that January morning in 
Kensington Gardens ; I said to you, ' Let us finish this 
scheming and hiding ; let our engagement be announced, 



108 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

and let us be married in the spring.' And you apparently 
assented ; and went home and wrote me that letter which 
I have now, and shall keep to my dying day, declaring that 
you had been compelled to accept an offer from Mr Ham- 
mond." 

" Tou knew, Laurence, that my mother insisted on it." 
"I knew you said so, Mrs Hammond. — "When I was ac- 
quainted with Mrs Molyneux she was not much accustomed 
to having any influence with her daughter. Then I went 
away ; but at first not out of the reach of that London 
jargon which permeates wherever Englishmen congregate. I 
heard of your marriage, of your first season, of the Rich- 
mond fete given for you by the Russian Prince, Tchernigow. 
I heard of you that autumn as being the reigning belle of 
Baden, where Tchernigow must have been at the same time, 
as I recollect reading in Galignani of his breaking the bank. 
Before I went to the East I heard of you in a score of 
other places ; your name always connected with somebody 
else's name — always ' la helle Hammond, et puis—' I never 
choose to be one in a regiment ; besides — " 
" Besides what ? " 

" Well, my time for that sort of thing was past and gone; 
I was too old for it ; I had gone through the phase of exist- 
ence which Tchernigow and the others were then enjoying. 
I had offered you a steadfast honest love, and you had re- 
jected it. When I heard of the Tchernigow alliance, and 
the various other passe-temps, I must say I felt enormously 
grateful for the unpleasantness you had spared me." 

" I cannot say your tour has improved you, Colonel 
Alsager," said Mrs Hammond calmly, though with a red 
spot burning on either cheek. " In the old days you were 
considered the pink of chivalry, and would have had your 
tongue cut out before you would have hinted a sneer at a 
woman. You refuse to believe my story of compulsion 
in my marriage ; but it is true — as true as is the fact that 
I rebelled then and there, and, having sold myself, deter- 
mined to have as much enjoyment of life as was compatible 
with the sale." 

" I never denied it, Mrs Hammond ; I simply told you 
Avhat I had heard, " : 



SOUVENT FEMME VAKIE. 109 

" Then tell me something more, Laurence Alsager," said 
Mrs Hammond, flushing brilliantly, and looking him, for the 
first time during their interview, straight in the lace ; " is 
it to be war between us two, or what ? " 

She looked splendidly beautiful just at that moment. She 
was a bright-looking little woman, with deep-gray eyes and 
long dark lashes, shining chestnut hair, a retrousse nose, a 
wanton mouth, and a perfect, trim, tight, rounded small 
figure. As she threw out this verbal challenge, her eyes 
flashed, she sat erect, and every fibre within her seemed 
quivering with emotion. 

Laurence marked her expression, and for an instant soft- 
ened, as the recollection of the old days, when he had seen 
her thus wilfully petulant only to make more marked the 
subsidence into placidity and devotion, rose before him ; 
but it faded rapidly away, had utterly vanished before, 
no less in reply to her peering gaze than to her words, 
he said, " ]No, not war ; neighbours who have been so 
nearly allied should never quarrel. Let us take another 
strategic phrase, and say that we will preserve an armed 
neutrality." 

" And* that means—? " 

" "Well, in our case that means that neither shall interfere 
with the other's plans, of whatever kind, without due warn- 
ing. That once given and disregarded, there will be war to 
the knife ; for I think under present circumstances neither 
will be inclined to spare the other." 

" Your anticipations are of a singularly sombre character, 
Colonel Alsager. I think that- — ah ! " she exclaimed, sud- 
denly clapping her hands, " I see it all ! my eyes are 
opened, and the whole map lies patent before me." 
" "What has caused this happy restoration of sight ? " 
' ; Remembering a story which was told me a day or two 
ago by a little bird. The story of a preux chevalier and a 
lady in distress ; of a romantic adventure and a terrific 
leap ; of plunging hoofs and fainting-fits, and all the neces- 
sary ingredients of such a scene. Je vous en fclicite, Mon- 
sieur le Colonel." 

Laurence's brow grew very dark as he said, " You arc 
too clever a woman to give a leg-up to a manifestly limping 



no 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



story, however much it might temporarily serve your pur- 
pose. Of that story as it stands, turned, twisted, perverted 
as it may be, nothing can be made. The scandal-mongers 
don't know what they have taken in hand. They might as 
well try to shake the Rock of Gibraltar as that lady's good 
name." 

Mrs Hammond laughed a short bitter laugh and said, 
" Tou have even lost that grand virtue which you possessed 
— the power of concealing your emotions. "With the 
gravity, you have attained the simplicity of the Oriental ; 
and you now — " 

She was interrupted by the servant's throwing open the 
door and announcing, " Sir Charles Mitford." 

That gentleman entered immediately on the announce- 
ment of his name, with a certain air of empressement which 
vanished so soon as he saw Colonel Alsager's broad back. 
Laura Hammond prided herself on never having been taken 
unawares. When speaking to Alsager her face had been 
curling with sneers, her voice harsh and strident ; but be- 
fore Sir Charles Mitford had crossed the threshold, she had 
wreathed her mouth in smiles, and as she shook hands 
with him, though aloud she only uttered the ordinary com- 
monplaces, in a lower tone she said, " I thought you would 
come to-day." 

Alsager heard her say it. That was a singular property 
of his — that gift of hearing anything that might be said, 
no matter in how large a party, or how earnestly he might 
be supposed to be talking. It had saved his life once ; and 
he had assiduously cultivated it ever since. Mitford heard 
it too, but thickly. He had not had as much experience 
in the cadences of the demi-voix as Laurence. 

" How are you, Alsager ? We seem to be always tum- 
bling over each other now, don't we ? and the oftener the 
better, I say. — How d'ye do, Mrs Hammond ? I say, 
what's all this that you've been saying to my wife ? " 

Laurence started, and then reverted to the album which 
lay on his knees. Mrs Hammond saw the start, and the 
means adopted for hiding it, and smiled quietly. 

" I don't know what I said in particular to Lady Mit- 
ford ; nothing to frighten her, T hope," said Mrs Hammond ; 



SOtTVENT FEMME VAEIE. Ill 

" I was congratulating myself that she and I had got on so 
very well together." 

" O yes, so you did, of course," said Sir Charles, — 
" sisters, and all that kind of thing. But I mean what you 
said to her about leaving town." 

'• Oh, that's perfectly correct. Mr Hammond has seen 
Sir Charles Duinfunk and Dr Wadd, and they both concur 
in saying that he ought not to have left Florence until the 
spring ; and that he must leave London forthwith." 

" And they have recommended Torquay as the best place 
for him ; at least so my wife tells me." 

" Quite right ; and in obedience to their commands I 
have sent Miss Gillespie off this very day to take a house, 
and make all necessary arrangements." 

" Who's Miss Gillespie ? " 

" My — well, I don't know what. I believe factotum is 
the Latin word for it. She's Miss Hammond's governess 
(my step-daughter, you know), and my general adviser and 
manager. I don't know what I should do without her, as 
I told Colonel Alsager, who, by the way, did not pay much 
attention." 

Laurence grinned a polite grin, but said never a word. 

" She was with me in the pony-carriage the first day Mr 
Bertram introduced you to me, Sir Charles. Ah, but she 
had her veil down, I recollect ; and she asked all about you 
afterwards." 

" Very civil of her to take any interest in me," said Sir 
Charles. " I recollect a veiled person in the pony-carriage ; 
but not a bit of interest did I take in her. All that con- 
centrated elsewhere, and that sort of thing ;" and he smiled 
at Mrs Hammond in a manner that made Laurence's stern 
face grow sterner than ever. 

" "Well, but about Torquay," continued Sir Charles. " I 
thought at first it was a tremendous nuisance your having 
to go out of town ; but now I've got an idea which does 
not seem so bad. Town's horribly slow, you know, utterly 
empty ; one does not know what to do with oneself ; and 
so I've been suggesting to Georgie why not go down to 
Eedmoor — our country place in Devon, you know — close 
to Torquay, — and one could fill the house with pleasant 



112 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

people, and you could come over from Torquay, aud it 
■would be very jolly indeed." 

He said it in an off-hand manner, but he nevertheless 
looked earnestly up into Mrs Hammond's face, and Lau- 
rence Alsager's expression grew sterner than ever. 

Mrs Hammond returned Sir Charles's glance, and said, 
" That w-ould be thoroughly delightful ! I was looking for- 
ward with horror, I confess, to a sojourn at Torquay. 
Those dreadful people in respirators always creeping about, 
and the stupid dinner-parties, where the talk is always 
about the doctor, and the quarter in which the wind is. 
But with you and Lady Mitford in the neighbourhood it- 
would be quite another thing." 

" O yes, and we'd get some jolly people down there. — 
Alsager, you'd come? " 

" I don't think I'd come, and I'm anything but a jolly 
person. I must go to my father's at once." 

" Gad, Alsager, you seem to keep your father always 
ready to bring forward whenever you want to be mis- 
anthropical. You were to have gone to him a week ago." 

" Circumstances alter cases," said Mrs Hammond with 
a short laugh ; " and Colonel Alsager finds London more 
tolerable than he expected. Is it not so, Colonel ? " 

" • Very tolerable, and not to be endured,' as Dogberry 
says, since I am about to leave it," said Laurence. (" She 
would like to draw me into a semi-confidence on that sub- 
ject; but she sha'n't," thought he.) 

" No • but really, Alsager, do try and come, there's a 
good fellow ; you can hold over your father until you want 
an excuse for not going to some place where you'll be 
bored. jSTow we won't bore you ; we'll take down a rattling 
good team : Tom Charteris and his wife — she plays and 
sings, and all that kind of thing, capitally ; and Mrs 
Masters, who's quiet to ride or drive — I don't mean that 
exactly, but she's available in two ways, — as a widow she 
can chaperon, and she's quite young and pretty enough to 
flirt on her own hook ; and the Tyrrells — nice girls those ; 
and Bligh and Yfinton, — Oh, and Dollamore ! I'll ask Dolla- 
more ; he'd be just the man for such a party." 

" O yes, you must have Lord Dollamore," said Mrs 



SOU VENT tfEMME VARIK. 11 o 

Hammond ; '' he has such a delightfully dry way of saying 
unpleasant tilings about everybody ; and as ho never shoots 
or hunts, he is a perfect treasure in a country house, and 
devotes himself to the ladies." She shot one hasty glance 
at Laurence as she said this, which he duly perceived. 

" O yes," said Mir Charles, " Dollamore's sure to come. 
And you, Alsager, — come, you've changed your mind?" 

" Upon my word, the temptation you offer me is so great, 
that I'm unable to resist it. Yes, I'll come." 

" I thought you would," said Sir Charles carelessly, 

" I knew you would," said Mrs Hammond in an under- 
tone ; then aloud, " What, going, Colonel Alsager ? Good- 
bye ; I'm so pleased to have seen you ; and looking so well 
too, after the climate, and all the things you've gone 
through." 

Laurence shook hands Avith Mitford and departed. 

Tes, there was not much doubt about it : Sir Charles 
was tolerably well " on " in that quarter. An old poacher 
makes the best gamekeeper, because he knows the tricks 
and dodges of his old profession ; and there was not one 
single move of Sir Charles Mitford' s during the entire con- 
versation which Laurence Alsager did not recognize as 
having been used by himself in bygone days. He knew 
the value of every look, knew the meaning of each inflexion 
of the voice ; and appreciated to its full the motive-power 
which had induced the baronet suddenly to long for the 
country house at Redmoor, and to become disgusted with 
the dreariness of London. Determined to sit him out too, 
wasn't he ? Lord ! how often he, Laurence, had deter- 
minedly sat out bores for the sake of getting ten words, 
one hand-clasp, from Laura after they were gone ! Yes, 
Mitford was getting on, certainly ; making the running 
more quickly even than Dollamore had prophesied. Dolla- 
more ! ah, that reminded him : Dollamore was to be asked 
down to Redmoor. That, and the manner in which Mrs 
Hammond had spoken of him and his visit, had decided 
Laurence in accepting Mitford's invitation. There could 
not be anything between them which — no ; Dollamore 
could never have made a confidante of Laura and imparted 
to her — no ! Laura had not too much conscience in any 



114 



BUNKING THE GAUNTLET. 



case where her own passion or even her own whim was con- 
cerned ; but she would shrink from meddling in an affair of 
that kind. And as for Lord Dollamore, he was essentially 
a man of petiis soins, the exercise of which always laid 
those who practised them open to misunderstanding. He 
had a habit of hinting and insinuating also, which was un- 
pleasant, but not very noxious. As people said, his bark 
was probably worse than his bite, and — 

And at all events Laurence was very glad that he had 
accepted the invitation, and that he would be there to 
watch in person over anything that might happen. 



CHAPTEE XL 

DOWN AT REDMOOR. 



Just on the highest ridge of the great waste of Eedmoor, 
which is interspersed with dangerous peat-bogs and mo- 
rasses, and extends about ten miles every way, with scarcely 
a fence or a tree, stands Eedmoor House, from time imme- 
morial — which means from the reign of Edward III. — the 
home of the Mitford family Stands high and dry, and 
looking warm and snug and comfortable, with its red-brick 
face and its quaint gables .and queer little mullioned win- 
dows. It is a house the sight of which would put spirit 
into a man chilled and numbed with looking over the great 
morass, and would give some vestige of credibility to the 
fact, that the sluggiest little stream born in the middle of 
the moor, and windiug round through the gardens of the 
house, from its desolate birthplace flows down — as can be 
traced from the windows — through a land of plenty, of park 
and meadow, of orchard and cornfield, by the old cathedral- 
city, to the southern shore. 

A grand old house, with a big dining-hall like St George's 
Chapel at "Windsor on a small scale, without the stalls, but 
with the knightly banners, and the old oak, and the stained 
glass, and the solemn air of antiquity ; with a picture- 



DOWN AT REDHOOE. 115 

gallery full of ancestors, beginning with Sir G-erard, temp. 
Henry VIII., painted by Holbein, a jolly red-bearded swash- 
buckler, not unlike his royal master, and ending with the 
late lamented Sir Percy, painted by Lawrence, with a curly 
head of hair, a fur collar to his coat, a smile of surprising 
sweetness, and altogether not unlike Ms royal master. 
There were drawing-rooms in blue and amber ; a charming 
bow-windowed room hung with tapestry, and commanding 
a splendid view over the cultivated landscape, which, in the 
housekeeper's tradition, had been a boudoir for Sir Percy's 
lady, Avho died within three years of her marriage ; a grand 
old library, the bookcases in black oak, and nearly all the 
books in Russia leather, save those bought under the 
auspices of the late baronet, — Hansard's Debates, and a 
legal and magisterial set of volumes all bound in calf and 
red-lettered at the back. There is a grand terrace in front 
of the house, and all kinds of gardens stretch round it : 
Dutch gardens, formal, quaint, a,nd solemn, with a touch of 
old-world stiffness like the Mynheers ; Italian gardens, 
bright and sunny and gaudy, very glittering and effective, 
but not very satisfactory after all, like the Signori ; English 
gardens, with ample space of glorious close-shaved lawn, and 
such wealth of roses as to keep the whole air heavy with 
their fragrance. Great prolific kitchen-gardens at the back, 
and stables and coach-houses which might be better ; but 
the late baronet cared'for nothing but his quarter-sessions 
and his yacht ; and so long as he had a pair of horses to jolt 
with him to join the judge's procession at assize-times, 
troubled himself not one jot how the internal economy of 
the stables was ordered. 

This is all to be altered now. It was not very bright in 
Sir Percy's time, and it has been deadly-lively indeed since 
his death ; but the Sleeping Beauty herself was never more 
astonished by the arrival of the prince than was Mrs Austin, 
the old hoiisekeeper at Bedmoor, by the advent of a tall 
hook-nosed gentleman, who announced himself as Captain 
Bligh, and who brought a letter from Sir Charles Mitford, 
duly signed and sealed with the family arms, which Mrs 
Austin knew so well, ordering implicit obedience to what- 
ever orders the bearer might choose to give. "With him 



116 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

came a sleek-looking man with, close-cut hair and a white 
cravat, whom Mrs Austin at first took for a clergyman, until 
she discovered he was the stud-groom. This person in- 
spected the stables, and the remnant of the late Sir Percy's 
stud, and reported to Captain Bligli that the stables was 
pigsties, and as for the hanimals, he should think they must 
be the 'osses as Noah put into the hark. 

A fresh regime and fresh work to be done by everybody 
under it. No more chance for Tummus coachman and 
"Willum helper to just ride harses to ex'cise and dryaive 
'em out in trap whenever wanted to go crass to races or 
market, or give missus and young 'uns a little change. No 
more chance for Dawniel Todd the Scotch gardener to 
make his market of all the fruits, flowers, and vegetables, 
selling them to Mrs Dean or Miss Archdeacon, or to the 
officers up in barracks. Xot much chance for the head- 
keeper and his two under-trappers, who really had all their 
work to do to keep the game down after Sir Percy's death, 
so strictly had that terror of poachers preserved ; though 
they thought they saw their way to balancing any loss which 
they might sustain from being unable any longer to supply 
the poulterers of the county town, in a house full of ardent 
sportsmen, with innumerable heavy tips after battue-days, 
and an occasional dog to break or to sell. The old lodge- 
gates had begun to grow rusty from disuse ; but they are 
constantly on the stretch now, for carts with ladders and 
scaflblding-poles, and men in light linen blouses daubed 
with paint, were streaming in and out from morning till 
night. There is a new roof being put on the stables, and 
the outhouses are being painted and whitewashed through- 
out ; and the mastiff, who has been bred on the true English 
principle of " keeping himself to himself," has been driven 
quite mad at the influx of new faces, and has shown such a 
convincing set of teeth to the painter's men, that they have 
declined proceeding with their work until he has been re- 
moved. So Tummus coachman and "Willum helper have 
removed his big kennel to the back of the stables ; and here 
Turk lies, with nothing but his black nose visible in the 
clean straw, until he catches sight of a painter or a tiler 
pursuing his occupation high up in mid-air, and then with 



DOWN AT IIBPMOOR. 117 

one baleful spring Turk bounds out of his kennel, and un- 
mistakably expresses his fervent wish to have that skilled 
labourer's life's-blood. 

Captain Bligh too sits heavy on the lodge-keeper's soul. 
For the eaptain, after a cursoiy inspection of the vehicles 
at Kedmoor House, has sent down to Exeter for a dog-cart, 
and has duly received thence the nearest approach which 
the Exeter ian coachbuilder had on hand. It is not a bad 
tax-cart, of the kind known as " Whitechapel," has a very 
big pair of wheels, and behind a long chestnut mare — 
which the captain found in a loose box in the corner of the 
yard, and which it seemed Tummus the coachman used to 
reserve for his special driving — runs remarkably well and 
light. In this tax-cart Captain Bligh drives to and from the 
station, where he is occupied watching the disembarkation 
of furniture coming direct from Grillow's — ottomans for the 
smoking-rooms, and looking-glasses for my lady's boudoir ; 
to and from the market-town, where the painters and other 
workpeople are to be hunted up ; to and from the barracks, 
where he has found that hospitality and good-fellowship 
which are invariable characteristics of the service. Erom 
the barracks the Captain is not unfrequently very late in 
returning, yelling out, " Ga-a-ate ! " in the early hours of 
the morning, and frightening the lodge-keeper from peace- 
ful dreams ; and as the painter's men arrive at six, and the 
railway-van did not leave till eleven, the lodge-keeper begins 
to feel, on the whole, that life is not all beer and skittles, 
and rather wishes that the late baronet had never been 
drownded. 

Xow things begin to look a little straighter, and rumours 
are rife that it won't be long before the new baronet brings 
his wife down, and regularly takes possession. The old 
stables have been re-tiled and touched up, four new loose 
boxes, " wi' sla-ate mangers and brass foxes' heads a-holdin' 
the pillar-reins," have been erected, the coach-houses have 
been cleaned and enlarged. The stud-groom, under whose 
directions all these alterations have been made, has watched 
their completion, and has then started for London, return- 
ing with a whole string of splendid creatures, all in the 
most perfect-fitting hoods and cloths embroidered with Sir 



118 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

C. M.'s initials and bloody hand, railed down to the nearest 
station, and brought over thence in charge of three under- 
lings, also sleek-headed, tight-trousered, and white-cravated. 
Not in income, but in status do Tummus coachman and 
Willum helper feel the change. They are to be retained on 
the establishment at the same rate of wages ; but they are 
simply to make themselves generally useful in the stables, 
and to have no particular duties whatsoever. 

Very busy indeed has been Captain Bligh ; but his labours 
are drawing to an end now, and he begins to think that he has 
been very successful. He has been good in generalization, 
he thinks ; there's nothing that any one could find par- 
ticular fault with, looking at. the materials he had to work 
upon, and the time he had to do it in. But there are two 
things about which he knows in managing for other people 
you should be particular. Take care that both the men and 
the women have a stunning good room of their own. Tou 
know the library is generally considered the men's room ; 
but Charley ain't much of a bookworm ; the Times of a day, 
and Bell of a Sunday, and that kind of thing ; and the 
library's an infernal big room, with all sorts of plaster-casts 
of philosophic classic parties grinning at you off the tops of the 
shelves. Charley won't like that ; so Bligh has fitted him up 
this little crib, next to his dressing-room, cosey and comforta- 
ble, good-drawing stove, little let-down flap for his grog, whip- 
rack, pipe-rack, and all snug — don't you think so ? Bol- 
lindar and Smyth, of the 26th Cameronians, to whom the 
question is put, think so — rather ! and look all round the 
room and nod their heads sagaciously, and clap Bligh on the 
back and tell him what a knowing hand he is, and then go 
off to try the new billiard-table which Thurston has just sent 
from London. That Lady Mitford's special room should 
also be something to be proud of, is also a desideratum with 
the Captain ; but there he mistrusts his own taste. The late 
Mrs Bligh had been a barrack-master's daughter, and having 
lived in barracks both before and after her marriage, had 
been accustomed, as her husband recollected, to think highly 
of any place where the doors would shut and the windows 
would not rattle. But the old campaigner recollected that 
Mrs Barrington the widow, daughter of the Dean and 



DOWN AT EEDMOOR, 119 

Deauess, and then living at home with her parents in the 
Close, had, during the two happy years of her marriage to 
George Barrington, private secretary to Lord Muffington 
when keeper of the Gold Fish to her Majesty, lived in very 
decent society in London ; and it was after Mrs Barrington's 
idea that the how-windowed houdoir had its how-window 
filled with plate-glass, and a light chintz paper and maple 
furniture. Sipping a glass of '20 port with her lunch- 
biscuit (the cellars at Kedmoor were splendidly stocked, and 
wanted no renovation), Mrs Dean declared that the room 
was perfect ; and poor pale peaky little Mrs Barrington, 
looking round at the elegance and comfort, was reminded of 
the days when she was something more than a dependent 
on her parents' bounty, and when she had a husband whose 
chiefest delight was the fulfilment of her every wish. 

So the Captain wrote up to his principal, and reported 
all in readiness ; and the day for Sir Charles and Lady 
Mitford to come down was agreed upon. There was some 
talk of having a public reception ; but the Captain did not 
think Sir Charles would care particularly about that, and so 
the scheme was given up. However, when the carriage 
which fetched them from the station dashed through the 
lodge-gates, the tenantry, some mounted on their rough 
little Redmoor ponies, some on foot, but all in their best 
clothes, were drawn up on either side of the avenue, and 
greeted their new landlord with reiterated cheers. They 
are an impressible people, these Devonians ; and they were 
much gratified by the frank, hearty, sporting appearance of 
Sir Charles, " so different from Sir Percy, as were all dried- 
up like ; " they liked the jolly way in which he stood up 
and waved his hat to them ; while as for Lady Mitford, the 
impression she created was something extraordinary. The 
men raved about her, and the women seemed to feel the 
greatest gratification in repeating that she was "a pure 
Devon lass, as any one could tell by her skin." 

Sir Charles had wished to bring all their friends down to 
Bedmoor at the same time as they themselves came ; but 
Georgie, who, ever since the visit to the ancestral home had 
been determined upon, had found her mistress-of-the-house 
position weighing on her mind, begged that they might be 



120 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

there for at least a day or two by themselves, that she might 
settle with Mrs Austin the disposal of the various rooms, 
and the general arrangement of the household. To this Sir 
Charles agreed, and they came alone. 

The " day or two" spent by themselves were very happily 
passed by Georgie. The whole of the first day was con- 
sumed in going from room to room with Mrs Austin, listen- 
ing to the family history, and thoroughly examining all the 
pictures, tapestry, and curios. The old lady was enchanted 
with her new mistress, who took so much interest in every- 
thing, and who, above all, was such an excellent listener. 
Then Georgie, whose housekeeping tastes had not had much 
opportunity for display in the parsonage at Fishbourne, 
under Mrs Austin's guidance went "through the things," 
absolutely revelling in snowy linen and spotless damask, in 
glorious old china and quaint antique glass, in great stores 
of jams and preserves, and all Mrs Austin's household 
treasures. She did not take so much interest in the dis- 
play of plate, though it Avas really very handsome and very 
valuable ; not the least effective among the trophies being 
several splendid regatta-prizes won by the late baronet's 
celebrated yacht. With the boudoir Georgie was delighted ; 
and when she heard from Captain Bligh that, feeling his 
utter ignorance in the matter, he had consulted Mrs Bar- 
rington, after whose taste the room had been prepared, 
Georgie declared that Mrs Barring-ton must be a very nice 
woman to have such excellent taste, would probably prove a 
delightful neighbour, and certainly should be called upon as 
soon as possible. 

Tou see, if Georgie " gushed " a little at this period of 
her life, it was not unnatural, and was certainly excusable. 
She had been brought up very quietly, and had had, as we 
have seen, her little trouble and had borne it with great 
pluck and determination ; and now, as she imagined, she 
was thoroughly happy. Husband's love, kind friends, wealth 
and position, were all hers ; and as she was young and im- 
pulsive, and thoroughly appreciative of all these blessings, 
she could not help showing her appreciation. In those 
days, even more than in the present, it was considered in 
the worst taste to be in the smallest degree natural ; a dull 



DOWN AT REDMOOE. 121 

uncaring acceptance of events as they occurred, without be- 
traying the least astonishment or concern, was considered 
the acme of good breeding ; so that unless Georgie altered 
a great deal before the London season, she would be voted 
very bad ton by Lady Clanronald and the Marchioness of 
Tappington, those sovereigns of society. But there is some 
little time yet before the commencement of the season, and 
Georgie may then have become as unappreciative and as 
undemonstrative as the other women in her position. Just 
now she is thoroughly happy with Mrs Austin and the con- 
tents of the linen and china-rooms. 

Whether, as the woman is the lesser man, the feminine 
mind is much more easily amused than the masculine, or 
whether there was much more absolute novelty to Lady 
Mitford in her position than to Sir Charles in his (he had 
seen something of the external life of fashionable people, 
and, like most military men, had acquired a veneer of swell- 
dom while in the army), it is difficult to determiue ; but it 
is certain that the " day or two " to be spent before the 
arrival of their friends seemed like a day or twenty-two to 
Sir Charles Mitford. He had gone over every room of the 
house, thoroughly examined the new stables and loose boxes, 
had out all the horses and critically examined them, had 
tried two new pairs and spent an hour or two in breaking 
them, had pulled the old mastiff's ears until the dog gi-owled, 
had then kicked him for growling, had put all his whips and 
all his pipes into their respective racks, had smoked more 
than was good for him, had whistled every tune he could 
remember, and was utterly and horribly bored. 

He was like the little boy in the child's story-book : he 
wanted somebody to come and play with him. Captain 
Bligh had been obliged to leave for London directly his 
friends arrived, and was coming down again with the first 
batch of visitors. And Sir Charles hated being alone ; he 
wanted somebody to smoke with him, and to play billiards 
with him. He used to put a cigar in his mouth and go and 
knock the balls about, trying various new hazards ; but it 
did not amuse him. He could not ask the officers of the 
neighbouring garrison to come over, as his plea to his friends 
had been the necessity for preparation in the house. He 



122 EtnmiNG the gauntlet. 

grew very cross towards the close of the second day ; and 
after dinner, as he was going off to smoke a sulky pipe in 
his own room, Greorgie came up to him, and put her arm 
through his, and looked at and spoke to him so affection- 
ately, that his conscience gave him a little twinge as he 
thought how lately he had let his fancy run on eyes and 
hair of a different colour from his wife's. 

" What is it, Charley ? You're all wrong, I see ; not ill, 
are you, darling ? " 

" No, Greorgie, not ill ; only confoundedly bored." 

"Bored?" 

" Tes, bored ! Oh, I know it's all very well for you, who 
have your house to look after and Mrs Austin to attend to, 
and all that kind of thing — that passes the time. But I've 
had nothing to do, and nobody to speak to, and I'm regu- 
larly sick of it. If this is the kind of thing one's to expect 
in country life, I shall go back to town to-morrow." 

" Oh, you won't feel it when your friends come down, 
Charley; they'll be here the clay after to-morrow. It's 
only because you're alone with me — and I'm not much of 
a companion for you, I know — that you're moped. Now 
let us see, what can you do to-morrow ? Oh, I have it, — 
why not drive over and see your friends the Hammonds at 
Torquay ? " 

He had thought of that several times, but had not men- 
tioned it because — well, he did not know why But now 
his wife had started the subject ; so of course it was all 
right. Still he hesitated. 

" Well, I don't know—" 

" Now I think it a capital idea. Tou can drive over 
there, and they'll most probably ask you to stop to dinner, 
and you'll have a fine moonlight drive back. And then the 
next day all the rest of the people will come down." 

After this Sir Charles did not attempt, however faintly, 
to interpose an objection, and was in a very good temper 
for the remainder of the evening. 



123 
CIIAPTEE XII. 

DRAWING COVER. 

It was part of the crafty policy of the tall-hatted Mr Grif- 
fiths to keep his employer Mr Effingham in good humour, 
and to show that he was worth feeing occasionally ; and it 
was with this end in view that Mr Griffiths had spoken so 
confidently of Mr Lyons's undoubted knowledge of the 
whereabouts of the forged bill and of his (Griffiths's) inten- 
tion of seeking an immediate interview with Lyons. But, 
in sober truth, Mr Griffiths merely had a faint notion that 
Lyons, from his previous connection with Tony Butler and 
his general acquaintance with the shady transactions of the 
deceased, might possibly give a guess as to the hands in 
which the bill then was, while he had not the remotest idea 
where to find the redoubtable Mr Lyons himself, with a 
view to obtain from him the necessary information. 

Eor Mr Lyons, as is the case with many gentlemen of 
his persuasion, did not confine his energies to the exercise 
of one calling, but dabbled in a great many. To some men 
he was known as a jeweller and diamond-merchant ; to 
others as an importer of Erench clocks, whistling bullfinches, 
and German mustard ; to some he was known in connection 
with the discounting of stamped paper ; to others as a pic- 
ture-dealer, a cigar-merchant, a vendor of objets d'art of a 
very peculiar kind. He had no residence — that is to say, 
he had a great many, but none particularly tangible 
or satisfactory. He would write to you dating from a 
number in Clement's Inn ; and when you called there, you 
would find the name of Mr Glubb over the door, with a 
painted square of tin by the letter-slit announcing that Mr 
Glubb had removed to Great Decorum Street, and that 
letters for him were to be left with the porter ; and lower 
still you would find a dirty scrap of paper, with " M. Lyons " 
faintly traced upon it ; and on the door being opened, you 
would find M. Lyons in a room with one chair, one table, a 



124 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

blotting-pad, pen and ink, and a cheque-book. He was in 
the habit of making appointments at coffee-houses and 
taverns ; and when he sent the clocks or the bullfinches, 
the cigars or the objets d'art, to their purchasers, they ar- 
rived at night, being left at the door by mysterious boys, to 
whom they had been given, with the address and twopence, 
by a man whom they had never seen before, but who was 
just round the corner. There was, it was said, one permanent 
address which Mr Lyons had kept up for a great number 
of years ; but this was known only to those with whom in 
their relation with Mr Lyons a melting-pot was associated, 
and these were very few in number 

Mr Griffiths was getting desperate, for the last half-crown 
out of the ten pounds lay in his pocket, and his principal 
Mr Effingham had already spoken to him rather sharply on 
the matter. He had been to all Mr Lyons's known haunts; 
he had spoken to a dozen people who were known to be of 
his intimates ; but he could obtain no tidings of him. Some 
thought he might be at Amsterdam, where the diamond-sale 
was going on ; others had heard him mention his intention 
of visiting Frankfort about that period ; some laughed, 
and wondered whether old Malachi had heard of the 
plate-robbery, " thalvers ath big round ath a cart-veel, 
and thpoonth, all new, not a bit rubbed ! " which had lately 
taken place. But no one could give any precise information. 
And time was going on, and Mr Effingham's patience and 
Mr Griffiths's stock of ready -money were rapidly becoming 
exhausted. 

One night, going into " Johnson's " as usual, Mr Grif- 
fiths saw his principal seated at one of the tables, and not 
caring to confront him just then, was about quietly with- 
drawing as much of his tall hat as he had already protruded 
through the swing-door, when he was espied and called to 
by Mr Effingham. 

" Come in, there ; don't think I didn't see you, because I 
did. "What a slimy cove you are, Griffiths ! — that's what 
I complain of; nothing fair and aboveboard in you." 

" Who's to be fair and aboveboard," growled Mr Griffiths, 
" if they're to be everlastingly growled at and badgered ? 
"What I come here for is to be quiet and 'ave a little peace, 



DRAWING COVEB. 125 

not to be worritted and downed upon. D'rectly I see you 
sittiu' here, I knoAved ifd be, 'Well, and wot's up?' aud 
' Ain't you got no news ? ' and ' A\ r ot a feller you arc, not 
to 'are learned somethink ! ' so, as I didn't seem to care 
about that, I was go in' away agen." 

'• Poor feller," said Mr Effingham with great contempt, 
" don't like being worried or having to work for your livin', 
don't you ? I wonder you didn't get yourself a government 
berth, Avhere pokin' the fire and whistlin' tunes is what they 
do when they're there, which is only the three winter 
months of the year. So you've brought no news ? " 

"Not a stiver, not a ha'porth,not a blessed word. There, 
you may as well take it all at once ! " said Griffiths in des- 
peration. 

" And you've been everywhere likely ? " 

" Everywhere, — in every gaff and crib where there was 
the least chance of heariu' of the old boy ; but not a word." 

" ]S'ow you see what a thing luck is," said Mr Effingham 
sententiously ; " I believe that old City cove who said he 
couldn't afford to 'know an unlucky man was right after all ; 
and I'm not at all sure I'm right, Master Griffiths, in not 
dropping your acquaintance, for certingly you're an unlucky 
buffer, if ever there was one." 

" "Well, p'raps I am, D'Ossay," said Griffiths, who began 
to see how the land lay ; " perhaps I am in some things ; 
but it ain't only luck, — I'm as lucky as most of 'em ; but 
it's the talent as does it — the talent ; and there's none of 
us has got that like you, D'Ossay, my boy." 

" Well, luck or talent, or whatever it is," said Effingham, 
pulling the bell, " it helps me on. — Bring some brandy and 
hot water here. — I come in here to have a mouthful o' bread 
and cheese and a glass o' ale about two this afternoon, and 
Pollock was in here ; Jack Pollock they call him, — the 
fellow that writes the plays, you know." 

Mr Griffiths, over his first gulp of bran dy-and -water, 
nodded his head in acquiescence. 

" Things is going on rather bad at the Garden," continued 
Mr Effingham ; " I don't know whether you've heard. Their 
pantomime's been a reg'lar failure this year, and Wuff's 
paper's beginning to fly again. I suppose old Lyons is in 



126 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

that swim, for Pollock says to me, ' Didn't I hear you askin' 
after Mr Lyons ?' he says. ' I did,' I says. ' I thought so,' 
he says ; ' and I told him so when I saw him just now in 
"Wuff's room at the Garden. And he says, " I've just come 
back from abroad, and I don't reckleckt Mr Effingham's 
name," he says ; " but if he's one of the right sort, he'll 
find me among the lemons on Sunday morning." ' So I 
thanked Pollock, and winked my eye, and nodded my head, 
and made believe as though I knew all about it ; but I 
don't." 

" Tou don't ? " 

" Not a bit of it ; I'm as far off as ever, save for knowing 
that the old man's in England." 

" Tou ain't fly to what's meant by ' among the lemons,' 
eh?" 

" Not a bit of it, I tell you. "What are you grinning and 
chuckling away at there, Griffiths ? That's one of your 
disgustin' ways,- — crowin' over me because you know some- 
thing which I don't." 

" Don't be riled, D'Ossay ; don't be riled, old feller. It's 
so seldom that I get a chance of findin' anything that you 
don't know, young though you are, that I make the most of 
it, I confess." 

" Well, there, all right. Now do you know what he 
meant by ' among the lemons ' ? " 

" Of course I do." 

" And w r hat does it mean? " 

" ' Among the lemons' is magsman's patter for ' Hounds- 
ditch.' There's a reg'lar gatherin' of sheenies there every 
Sunday morning where they have a kind of fair, and sellin' 
all sorts of things, — clothes, and books, and pictures, and 
so on." 

" "Well, but old Lyolls is a cut above all that sort of thing." 

" I should think he was." 

" He wouldn't be found there." 

" "Well, not sellin' anything ; but he might be on the 
look-out for some magsmen as work for him, and who may 
have had the office to be about there. But if he's not 
there, I'd know where to lay hands on him, I'd take my 
oath." 



DRAWING COVER. 127 

" Where's that ? " 

" At the Net of Lemons, a public where sheenies of all 
kinds — diamond-merchants, fences, all sorts — meet on the 
Sunday " 

" Do you know the place ? " 

" Know it ! I should think so, and Mr Eliason as keeps 
it ; as respectable an old gent as walks." 

" They'd let you in ? " 

" Ah, and you too, if I squared it for you." 

" Very well, then ; we'll hunt up old Lyons on Sunday 
morning." 

Mr Effingham was so pleased with his chance of success, 
that Mr Griffiths thought he might borrow half-a-sovereign ; 
and what is more, he got it. 

On the following Sunday morning Mr Effingham found 
himself by appointment opposite Bishopgate Church as the 
clock struck ten, and Mr Griffiths there waiting for him. 
As he approached, Mr Effingham took stock of his friend's 
personal appearance, and mentally congratulated himself 
that it was at the East and not at the "West end of London 
that they were to be seen in company together ; for those 
mysterious means by which Mr Griffiths went through "the 
fever called living " had not been very productive of late, 
and his wardrobe was decidedly seedy. The tall hat shone 
so as to give one the idea that its owner had forgotten to 
remove it when he applied the morning macassar to his hair, 
and the suit of once-black clothes looked as if they had been 
bees-waxed. Mr Effingham must have allowed his thoughts 
to be mirrored in his expressive countenance, for Mr Grif- 
fiths said as he joined him : 

"Looking at my togs, D'Ossay ? Well, they ain't as 
nobby as yours ; but you see, I don't go in* to. be a 'eavy 
swell. They'll do well enoiigh for the caper we're on to- 
day, though ; better perhaps than your gridironed kick- 
seys." 

At another time Mr Effingham might have shown annoy- 
ance at thus having his check trousers sneeringly spoken of ; 
but something which Griffiths had said had rather dashed 
him, and it was with a little hesitation that he asked: 



128 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



" They — they ain't a very rough lot that we're going 
amongst, are they ? " 

" Well, there's more rough nor smooth hair among 'em ; 
but they won't do you no harm; I'll look after you, 
D'Ossay. Shovin' you won't mind, nor elbers in every 
part of your body at once. Oh, and I say, don't leave any- 
think in your 'irid-pockets, and put your fogle in your 'at. 
Like this, look. I carry most things in my 'at." 

And Mr Griffiths whipped off the tall hat, and showed 
in it a handkerchief, a greasy parcel suspiciously like a ham 
sandwich, a pocket comb, and a paper book with the title 
" The Olio of Oddities, or the Warbling Wagoner's Wallet 
of Wit and Wisdom." 

Mr Effingham took his friend's advice, and transferred 
all his portable property from the tail-pockets of his coat 
to other less patent recesses, and the pair started on their 
excursion. 

Crossing Bishopgate, and turning short round to the. 
right up a street called Sandy's Row, past a huge black 
block of buildings belonging to the East India Company, 
and used as a store-house for costly silks, round which 
seethed and bubbled a dirty, pushing, striving, fighting, 
higgling, chaffering, vociferating, laughing mob, filling up 
the narrow street, the small strips of pavement on either 
side, and what ought to have been the carriage-way between 
them. It was Sunday, and may have been observed " as 
such " elsewhere, but certainly not in Sandy's Eow or 
Cutler's Eow. There were shops of all kinds, and all at 
work : tool-shops, — files, saws, adzes, knives, chisels, ham- 
mers, and tool-baskets displayed in the open windows, 
whence the sashes had been removed for the better* fur- 
therance of trade ; hatters', hosiers', tailors', bootmakers' 
shops, the proprietors of which had left the calm asylum of 
their counters and stood at the doors, importuning the 
passers-by with familiar blandishments ; for in the carriage- 
way through which Effingham and Griffiths slowly forced a 
passage, were peripatetic vendors of hats, hosiery, clothes, 
and boots, — hook-nosed oleaginous gentry with ten pairs of 
trousers over one arm, and five coats over the other, with 
enormous boots, a few hats, and a number of cloth caps. 



DRAWING COVER. 129 

Mr Effingham soon learned the value of his friend's advice, 
for there were thieves of all kinds in the motley crowd ; big 
burly roughs, Avith sunken eyes and massive jaws, sulkily 
elbowing their way through the mass, and " gonophs " or 
pickpockets of fourteen or fifteen, with their collarless 
tightly-tied neckerchiefs, their greasy caps, and " aggera- 
watcr " curls. Delicate attention was paid to Mr Effing- 
ham before he had been five minutes amongst them. The 
hind-pockets of his coat were turned inside out, and he was 
" sounded " all over by a pair of lightly-touching hands. 
Whether Mr Griffiths was known, or whether his personal 
appearance was unattractive and promised no hope of ade- 
quate reward, is uncertain ; but no attempt was made on 
him. 

While Mr Effingham was vaguely gaping about him, 
staring at everything and thoroughly impressed with the 
novelty of his situation, Griffiths had been taking stock of 
the crowd, and keeping a strict look-out for Mr Lyons. 
Jews were there in shoals, and of all kinds : the grand old 
Jewish type, dignified and bearded, than which, when good, 
there is nothing better ; handsome sensual-looking men, 
with bright eyes, and hook-noses, and scarlet lips ; red 
frizzy-headed Jews, with red eyelids, and shambling gait, 
and nasal intonation ; big flat-headed, stupid-looking men, 
with thick lips, and tongues too large for their mouths, and 
visibly protruding therefrom ; — all kinds of Jews, but Mr 
Lyons not among them. 

So they pushed on, uncaring for the chaff of the mob, 
which was very facetious on the subject of Mr Effingham's 
attire, saluting him as a " collared bloke," in delicate com- 
pliment to his wearing a clean shirt ; asking whether he 
was a " Booshan ;" whether he were not " Prince Halbut's 
brother," and other delicate compliments, — pushed on until 
they arrived at the Clothes-Exchange, a roofed building 
filled round every side and in the centre with old-clothes 
stalls. Here, piled up in wondrous confusion, lay hats, 
coats, boots, hob-nailed shoes, satin ball-shoes, driving-coats, 
satin dresses, hoops, brocaded gowns, flannel jackets, fans, 
shirts, stockings with clocks, stockings with torn and darned 
feet, feathers, parasols, black-silk mantles, blue-kid boots, 

9 



130 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

belcher neckerchiefs, and lace ruffles. More Jews here ; 
salesmen shrieking out laudations of their wares, and fran- 
tically imploring passers-by to come in and be fitted. 
" Here'th a coat ! plue Vitney ; trai this plue Yitney, ma 
tear." " Here'th a vethkit for you, thir ! " shouted one 
man to Effingham ; " thuch a vethkit ! a thplendid vethkit, 
covered all over -with blue-and-thilver thpright." Mr 
Effingham cast a longing eye at this gorgeous garment, but 
passed on. 

No Lyons here, either among sharp-eyed vendors or leer- 
ing buyers. Mr Griffiths was getting nonplussed, and Mr 
Effingham growing anxious. " We must find him, Griffiths," 
he said ; " we must not throw away this chance that he's 
given us ; he may be off to the Continent, Lord knows 
where, to-morrow. Why the devil don't you find him ? " 

Mr Griffiths intimated that so far as eye-straining could 
be gone through, he had done his best ; and suggested that 
if the man they soxight were not there, all the enejgy in 
the world would not discover him. " But there's the Net 
of Lemons yet," he said ; " that's, after all, the safest draw, 
and we're more likely to hit upon him there than anywhere 
else." 

So they pushed their way through the steaming, seeth- 
ing, struggling crowd, and found themselves in a quiet dull 
little square. Across this, and merely glancing at several 
groups of men dotted here and there in its midst, loudly 
talking and gesticulating with energy which smacked more 
of the Hamburg Borsenhalle or the Erankfort Zeil than 
the stolid reticence of England, Mr Griffiths led his com- 
panion until they stopped before the closed door of a public- 
house, aloft from which swung the sign of " The Net of 
Lemons." At the door Mr Griffiths gave three mystic 
raps, at the third of which the door opened for about a 
couple of inches, and a thick voice said, " Who is it ?" 

"All right, Mr Eliason. Griffiths, whom you know. 
Take a squint, and judge for yourself." 

Mr Eliason probably followed this adviee, and finding the 
inspection satisfactory, opened the door to its extent, and 
admitted the pair ; but raising his bushy brows in doubt as 
4to Mr. Effingham, Griffiths said, " A friend of mine — come 



DRAWING COVER. 131 

on partickler business, and by appointment with Mr Lyons. 
Is he here?" 

The reference was apparently satisfactory, for Mr Eliason, 
a fat pood-looking big man in a soft wide-awake hat, said, 
"You'll find him inside;" and shut the door behind 
them. 

Mr Effingham walking through, and following his con- 
ductor, found himself in a low-roofed, square-built, comfort- 
able room, round three sides of which were ranged tables, 
and on these tables were placed large open trays of jewelry. 
There they lay in clusters, thick gold chains curled round 
and round like snares ; long limp silver chains such as are 
worn by respectable mechanics over black-satin waistcoats 
on Sundays ; great carbuncle pins glowing out of green- 
velvet cases ; diamond rings and pins and brooches and 
necklaces. The best emeralds in quaint old-fashioned gold 
Bettings nestled by the side of lovely pale opals ; big finger- 
rings made up after the antique with cut cornelian centre- 
pieces ; long old-fashioned earrings ; little heaps of rubies, 
emeralds, and turquoises set aside in the corners of the 
trays ; big gold and silver cups and goblets and trays and 
tazzas ; here and there a clumsy old epergne ; finger-rings 
by the bushel, pins by the gross ; watches of all kinds, from 
delicate gold Genevas to the thick turnipy silver " ticker " 
of the schoolboy ; and shoals of watchworks without cases. 
On this Tom Tidler's ground were crowds of customers, 
smoking strong cigars, walking about without let or hin- 
drance, and examining — ay, and handling — the jewels with- 
out creating the least consternation in the breasts of their 
vendors. 

There was a slight movement among the company at the 
entrance of the new-comers ; but Griffiths seemed to be 
known to a few, with whom he exchanged salutations, and 
the appearance of Mr Eliason with them settled any wan- 
dering doubts which might have arisen in the minds of the 
others. As for Mr Effingham, he began to think he was in 
the cave into which Aladdin descended to get the lamp at 
the bidding of the magician ; and he went moving round, 
gazing first on one side, then on the other, lost in wonder. 
But Mr Griffilhs, to whom the scene was tolerably familiar, 



132 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

went at once to business, scrutinizing with, keen glance the 
buyers and sellers, poking his nose into the groups of 
domino-players in the corners, hunting about with admirable 
patience and forbearance, but for a long time with no result. 
At last he stopped before a group of three. One of these 
was an old Jewish gentleman, with strongly-marked features, 
overhanging bushy eyebrows, hooked nose, and long white 
beard. He held in his hand a blue paper, such as generally 
contains seidlitz-powders, but its contents were diamonds. 
These were being carefully inspected by the other two men, 
each of whom had a bright steel pair of pincers, with which 
he selected a specimen from the glittering heap, breathed 
upon it, watched it carefully, and in most instances finally 
laid it on one side for purchase. "When this transaction 
had been gone through and was at an end, the old gentle- 
man folded up his paper with such diamonds as remained in 
it, placed it in his waistcoat-pocket, and was calmly walking 
away, when Griffiths touched him on the arm, saying inter- 
rogatively, " Mr Lyons ? " 

The old man turned in an instant, and threw a sharp look 
of inquiry over his interlocutor, as ho said : " Yes, ma tear 
sir, that's mai name ; not ashamed to own it any vercs. Yot 
might you vant with me ? " As he spoke he had covered 
his waistcoat-poeket with his hand, and stood prim and spry. 

" This gentleman — Mr Effingham — has been looking for 
you some little time. You told a friend of his—Mr Pollock 
■ — that you would be here to-day, and we've come on pur- 
pose to meet you." 

" Effingham ! Pollock ! " said the old man, musing. " 
yes, Pollock, who writes those funny burlesques for my 
friend "Wuff; O yes — Effingham," he said. "How do you 
do, ma tear ? Now vot is it ? A leetle advance, or some- 
thing you've got that you don't know how to get rid of, and 
think I might fancy it, eh ? " 

" Well, it ain't either, Mr Lyons," said Effingham. " It's 
a little information you're in possession of that you might 
be inclined to give us, and — " 

" You're not traps ? " asked Mr Lyons, turning pale. 

" Not a bit of it, Mr Lyons," said Griffiths, striking into 
the conversation. " Quite different from that. You and I 



DRAWING COVEU, 133 

have done business before. T was with — " and here he 
whispered into Lyons's ear. 

' : Ah, I reckleckt," said the old gentleman. " That vos 
a very good plant, and bothers them all in Scotland Yard 
to this day. Ha, ha! I reckleckt. Now vot did your 
friend say ? Information ? Veil, you know, I never give 
information." 

' ; No, no, of course not," said Griffiths, winking at Effing- 
ham. 

" no, sir," said that worthy. " I'm prepared to pay, of 
course, anything reasonable for what I require." 

•' Yell, veil, ma tear, let's know vot it is." 

' : Tou were great pals with my brother, I believe ? " 

" No. Effingham ? No ; — never heard the name." 

" No, no ; not Effingham. That's merely — you under- 
stand?" 

"0 ah! yes ! I qvite understand ; but vot is the 
name ? " 

" Butler ! Tou knew Tony Butler well ? " 

" Knew him veil ; I should rather think I did. A good 
fellow ; a clever fellow ; oh, a very clever fellow, ma 
tear." 

" Tes ; well, I'm his brother." 

" Not like him," said Mr Lyons. " More dressy, and 
not so business-like. A rare fellow for business, Tony." 

" That may or may not be," said Effingham, slightly of- 
fended. " Now, when he died, you cleared off his traps." 

" Only a few sticks ; very poor sticks. Ah, ma tear, vot 
I lost by that transaction ! Vy, there vosn't enough to clear 
me in a sixth part of vot I'd advanced to Tony " 

" Well, I'm not here to enter into that — that was your 
look-out. But amongst what you took away there was a 
desk." 

" Vos there ? 'Pon my soul I can't reckleckt ; not that 
I'm goin' to gainsay you. Vos there a desk, now ? " 

" And in it," continued Effingham, not seeming to heed 
him, " there was an over-due bill for twenty-five pounds ac- 
cepted by Walter Burgess." 

' : Lord now ! Vos there indeed ? " 

" Look here, Mr Lyons. If you don't know anything, 



134 EUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

all right. We won't waste our time or our money, but 
we'll go to those who can help us." 

" Vot a headstrong boy it is ! "Who said I couldn't help 
you ? G-o on now, — a bill accepted by Walter Burgess ? " 

" Exactly JSTow that bill's no use to any one, and we 
want you to give it to us." 

" Ha, ha ! clever boys, clever boys ! Yot large-hearted 
fellows too, to vant to buy a bill that ain't of any use to 
any vun ! 0, vot generous boys ! " 

" It's no use, Griffiths," said Effingham angrily ; " he 
either don't know or won't say anything about it." 

" Steady," said Griffiths. " Come, Mr Lyons, say you've 
got the stiff, and name your price." 

" Accepted by Walter Burgess, eh ? " said the old gen- 
tleman ; " yes, I reckleckt that bill ; O yes, I reckleckt 
him." 

" Well now, bring your recklecktion into something 
practical, and I'll give you this for that bill," said Mr. 
Effingham, producing a five-pound note. 

The old Jew's eyes glistened at the sight of the money ; 
and then his face fell, and he looked horribly disappointed. 

" You should have it for that," said he ; " you should 
have it for that, and velcome ; only there's vun little reason 
vy I can't make it over to you." 

" What's that ? " cried Effingham. 

" Veil, it's a strong reason, as you'll allow ven I tell it to 
you. I can't let you have the bill, because — because I 
haven't got it myself." 

Mr Effingham sAvore a sharp oath, and even Mr Griffiths 
looked disconcerted. 

" Come along," said the former, — " we've wasted time 
enough with the pottering old fool, who's only selling us, 
and—" 

" Vait a minute," said Mr Lyons, laying his hand on the 
other's arm, — " vait a minute, ma tear. Though I haven't 
got the leetle bill myself, perhaps I know who has.'"' 

" That's likely enough," said Griffiths , " well, who has ? " 

" Ah, that's tellings, ma tear. I shall vant — just a leetle 
something to say." 

" I'll give this," said Effingham, producing a sovereign. 



DEAWING COVJSk. 135 

" Veil, it ain't enough ; but you're such headstrong fel- 
lows. There ! " said Mr Lyons, slipping it into his pocket ; 
" now do either of you know a gal who was under Tony 
Butler's thumb at vun time, but who hated him mortal, and 
vos very sveet on vun of Tony's friends ? " 

" I do ! " cried Griffiths ; " Lizzie Ponsford." 

" That's the same ; a fine gal too, a reg'lar fine gal. Veil, 
I'd no sooner got Tony's traps over at my place than that 
gal comes to me, and she says, ' You've got a desk that 
b'longed to Tony Butler,' she says. And ven I says ' yes,' 
she offered me a pound for it. It vosn't vuth five shillings ; 
so I knew there vos something in it she vanted, though I'd 
hunted it through and found nothin' but old diaries and 
memorandums and such-like. ' I von't sell it,' I says. 
' May I look at it ? ' she says. ' Tou may,' I says ; and 
vith that I fetched it down ; and ven she see it, she touched 
a spring, and out flew a secret drawer vith this bill in it. 
' Hands off,' I says, for she vos going to clutch it at vunce. 
' Let me have it,' she says ; ' I'll pay for it.' So I looked 
at it, and saw it had been overdue eighteen months, and 
reckleckted hearin' it was all wrong ; so I says, ' Vot'U you 
give ? ' 'A sovereign,' she says. ' Make it two, and it's 
yours,' I says. So, after a little, she give me two skivs, 
and she took the bill and valked away vith it." 

Mr Effingham looked at Griffiths, and the latter returned 
the glance. 

" It would be almost worth another crown to know if 
these are lies you are telling us, old gentleman," said the 
former ; " but it sounds something like truth. Now one 
question more. "Where is Lizzie Ponsford ? " 

" Ah, that beats me. A reg'lar clever gal ; nice-looking 
and reg'lar clever. I'd have given something to find out 
myself; but it vos all of no use. She vent avay from all 
the old haunts, and hasn't been heard of for a long time. 
I've all sorts of people about, and they'd tell me, bless you, 
if she'd ever show'd up. But she's gone, and no vun can 
find her." 

" Very good," said Effingham ; " now you take this com- 
mission from me. If you hear of her within the next 
month, and can let me know where she is, find out Griffiths 



186 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

at Johnson's, and it'll be a fiver in your pocket. Tou 
understand ? " 

Mr Lyons made no verbal reply, but struck his fore- 
finger against his nose and looked preternaturally sagacious. 

" All right ! now good-bye ; " they shook hands and 
parted. 

"When they got into the street again Mr Effingham said, 
" So Lizzie Ponsford has the bill. "What the deuce made 
her want it ? unless some day to revenge herself on Mit- 
ford. But she's not likely to have heard of his having 
turned up such trumps. Now, Mr Griffiths, our pursuit 
begins again. Lizzie Ponsford has that bill. Tour business 
and mine is to find out Lizzie Ponsford, and by some means 
or ether — no matter what — get that bill from her." 



CHAPTEE XIII. 



SIR CHARLES S VISIT. 



b> 



Sir Charles Miteord was up betimes the next morning, 
for he had a twenty -miles' drive before him. The weather 
was bright, clear, and frosty ; Sir Charles's spirits were 
high ; he was radiant and buoyant, and thoroughly in good 
temper with himself and everybody else. He was specially 
kind and affectionate to Greorgie, and after breakfast in- 
sisted upon seeing her commence her day of Avork before 
he started on his day of pleasure ; and he complimented 
Mrs Austin on the progress her pupil had made under her 
directions, and on the care, cleanliness, and order observable 
throughout the house, and by his few words made a com- 
plete conquest of the old lady, who afterwards told Greorgie 
that though Sir Percy had been an upright man and a good 
master, it was all in a straitlaced kind of way, and no one 
had ever heard him say a kind word to herself, let alone any 
of the servants. And then when the chestnuts had been 
brought round in the mail-phaeton, and were impatiently 
pawing at the gravel in front of the hall-door, and champing 



sir Charles's visit. 137 

at their bits, and flecking with foain their plated harness 
and their sleek sides, Sir Charles gave his wife an affec- 
tionate kiss and drove away in great glee. 

Mrs Austin's instruction of her mistress was shortened 
by full five minutes that morning — five minutes during 
which Lady Mitford was occupied in leaning out of the 
window and watching her husband down the drive. How 
handsome he looked ! in his big heavy brown driving-coat 
with its huge horn buttons, his well-fitting dogskin gloves, 
and his natty hat — wide-awakes had not then been invented, 
but driving-men used to wear a hat low in the crown and 
broad in the brim, which, though a trifle slangy, was in some 
cases very becoming. The sun shone on his bright com- 
plexion, his breezy golden whiskers, and his brilliant teeth, 
as he smiled his adieu ; and as he brought the chestnuts up 
to their bearings after their first mad plunges, and standing 
up got them well in hand and settled them down to their 
work, Greorgie was lost in admiration of his strong muscular 
figure, his pluck and grace. It was a subject on which she 
would have been naturally particularly reticent, even had 
there been any one to " gush " to ; but I think the tears of 
pleasure welled into her eyes, and she had a very happy 
" cry " before she rejoined Mrs Austin in the still-room. 

And Sir Charles, what were his thoughts during his 
drive ? Among all the wonderful revelations which the 
publication of the Divorce-Court trials has made public, the 
sad heart-rending misery, the brutal ruffianism, the heart- 
less villany, the existence of Avhich could scarcely have been 
dreamed of, there is one phase of life which, so far as I have 
seen — and I have looked for it attentively, — has never yet 
been chronicled. The man who leaves his wife and family 
to get on as they best can, while he revels in riot and de- 
bauchery ; the man who is the blind slave of his own brute 
passions, and who goes headlong to destruction without any 
apparent thought save for his own gratification ; the man 
who would seem in the iteration of his share of the marriage- 
service to have substituted " hate " for " love," and who 
either detests his wife with savage rancour, or loathes her 
with deep disgust, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, 
in sickness and in health, until the Judge- Ordinary does them 



138 EUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

part ; the respectable man, so punctual in the discharge of 
his domestic duties, so unswerving in the matter of family- 
prayers, whose conjugal comfort is one day wrecked by the 
arrival of a clamorous and not too sober lady with height- 
ened colour and blackened eyelids : — with all these type3 
we are familiar enough through the newspaper columns ; 
but there is another character, by no means so numerously 
represented, nor so likely to be brought publicly under no- 
tice, who yet exists, and with specimens of which some of 
us must be familiar. I mean the man who, with great 
affection for his wife and strong desire to do right, is yet 
so feeble in moral purpose, so impotent to struggle against 
inclination, such a facile prey to temptation, as to be per- 
petually doing wrong. He never grows hardened in his 
vice, he never withdraws his love from its proper object — 
for in that case it would quickly be supplanted by the op- 
posite feeling ; he never even grows indifferent: after every 
slip he inwardly upbraids himself bitterly and vows repent- 
ance ; in his hour of remorse he institutes comparisons be- 
tween his proper and improper attractions, in which the 
virtues of the former are always very bright and the vices 
of the latter always very black ; and then on the very next 
occasion his virtuous resolutions melt away like snow, and 
he goes wrong again as pleasantly as possible. 

Sir Charles Mitford was of this class. He would have 
been horrified if any one had suggested that he had any in- 
tention of wronging his wife ; would have said that such an 
idea had never crossed his mind — and truthfully, as when- 
ever it rose he immediately smothered it ; would have de- 
clared, as he believed, that Greorgie was the prettiest, the 
best, and the dearest girl in the world. But he was a man 
of strong passions, and most susceptible to flattery ; and 
ever since Mrs Hammond had seemed to select him for 
special notice, more especially since she had assumed the 
habit of occasionally looking pensively at him, with a kind 
of dreamy languor in her large eyes, he had thought more of 
her, in both senses of the phrase, than was right. He was 
thinking of her even then, as he sat square and erect in his 
phaeton, before he passed out of Greorgie's gaze ; thinking of 
her large eyes and their long glances, her full rounded 



SIR CHARLES VISIT. Iciy 

figure, a peculiar hand-clasp which she gave, a thrill without 
a grip, a scarcely perceptible unforgettable pressure. Then 
his horsey instincts rose within him, and he began to take 
coachman's notice of the chestnuts ; saw the merits and de- 
merits of each, and almost unconsciously set about the work 
of educating the former, and checking the latter ; and thus 
he employed himself until the white houses of Torquay 
came within sight, and glancing at his watch he found he 
should have done his twenty miles in an hour and forty 
minutes. 

Mrs Hammond had told him that he would be sure of 
finding their address at the Royal Hotel ; so to the Royal 
Hotel he drove. The chestnuts went bounding through the 
town, attracting attention from all the valetudinarians then 
creeping about on their shopping or anteprandial walks. 
These poor fellows in respirators and high shawls, bending 
feebly on sticks or tottering on each other's arms, resented 
the sight of this great strong Phoebus dashing along with, 
his spinning chariot- wheels. When he pulled up at the 
door of the Royal, a little crowd of invalids crept out of 
sunny nooks and sheltered corners, where they had been 
resting, to look at him. The waiter, a fat greasy man, who 
used to let the winter-boarders tear many times at the bell 
before he dreamt of answering it, heard the tramp of the 
horses, and the violent pull given to the door-bell by Sir 
Charles's groom, and in a kind of hazy dream thought that 
it must be summer again, and that it must be some of the 
gents from the yachts, as was always so noisy and obstreper- 
ous. Before he could rouse himself sufficiently to get to 
the door, he had been anticipated by the landlord, who had 
scarcely made his bow, before Dr Bronk, who had noticed 
the phaeton clashing round the corner, fancied it might be a 
son or a nephew on the look-out for quarters — and medical 
attendance — for some invalid relative, came into the portico, 
and bestowed the greatest care in rubbing his shoes on the 
hall-mat. 

Mr Hammond ? No, the landlord had never heard the 
name. Constant change of faces renders landlords preter- 
naturally stupid on this point, they can never fit names to 
faces or faces to names. Hammond ? no, he thought not. 



140 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



John ! did John know the name of Hammond ? But before 
John could sufficiently focus his wits to know whether he 
did or not, Dr Bronk had heard all, had stepped up to the 
side of the phaeton, had made a half- friendly, half-deferential 
bow, and was in full swing. 

Mr Hammond? a middle-aged gentleman, — well, Avho 
perhaps might be described as rather elderly, yes. Bald, — 
yes. With a young daughter and a very charming wife ? 
Tes, yes ; certainly he knew them ; he had the honour of 
being their medical attendant, — Dr Bronk of the Paragon. 
Lately had come down to Torquay, recommended to him by 
his — he was proud to say — old friend and former fellow-pupil, 
Sir Charles Dumfunk, now President of the College of Phy- 
sicians. Where were they ? well, they had been really un- 
fortunate. Torquay, my dear sir, every year rising in im- 
portance, every year more sought after, — for which perhaps 
some little credit was due to a little medical brochure of his, 
Torquay and its Climatr, — Torquay was so full that when Mrs 
Hammond sent down that admirable person, Miss Gillespie, 
— whom of course the gentleman knew, — there was only one 
house vacant. So the family had been forced to content 
themselves with a mansion — jNo. 2, Cleveland Gardens, very 
nice, sheltered, and yet with a charming sea-view. Where 
was it ? Did the gentleman see the bow-windowed shop at 
the corner ? Second turning to the right, just beyond that 
■ — " Se-cond turn-ing to the right ! " This shouted after 
Sir Charles, who, with a feeling that the chestnuts were too 
rapidly cooling after their sharp drive, had started them off 
the minute he had obtained the information. 

The second turning to the right was duly taken, and No. 
2, Cleveland Gardens, was duly reached. It was the usual 
style of seaside-house, with stuccoed front and green veranda, 
and the never-failing creeper which the Devonians always 
grow to show the mildness of their climate. The groom's 
thundering knock produced a smart waiting-maid, who ac- 
knowledged that Mrs Hammond lived there ; and the send- 
ing in of Sir Charles Mitford's card produced a London 
flunkey, on whom the country air had had a demoralizing 
influence, so far as his outward appearance was concerned. 
But he acknowledged Sir Charles's arrival with a deferential 



SIB CHARLESES VISIT. Ill 

bow, and he" sins him to walk in, assured him that his 

7 Oct © ' 

mistress would come down directly. Wo the groom was sent 
round to put up his horses at the stables of the Royal, and 
Sir Charles followed the footman into the drawing-room. 

It was not an apartment to be left alone in for long. No 
doubt the family of the owner, a younger brother of an Irish 
peer, found it pleasant and airy when they were down there 
in the summer, and the owner himself found the rent of it 
for the spring, autumn, and winter, a very hopeful source 
of income ; but it bore " lodging-house " on every scrap of 
furniture throughout it. Sir Charles stared round at the bad 
engravings, at the bad old-fashioned artists on the walls ; 
looked with concentrated interest on a plaster-model of the 
Leaning Tower of Pisa, and wondered whether the mortar 
shrinking had warped it ; peeped into two or three books on 
the table ; looked out of the window at the promenading 
invalids and the green twinkling sea ; and was relieved be- 
yond measure when he heard a woman's step on the stair- 
case outside. 

The door opened, and a woman entered— -but not Mrs 
Hammond. A tall woman, with sallow cheeks aud great 
eyes, and a thickish nose and large full lips, with a low 
forehead, over which tumbled waves of crisp brown hair, 
with a marvellous lithe figure and a peculiar swinging walk. 
Shifty iu her glance, stealthy in her walk, cat-like in her 
motions, her face deadly pale, — a volcano crumbled into 
ashes, with no trace of its former fire save in her eyes, — a 
woman at once uncomfortable, uncanny, noticeable, and 
fearsome, — Miss Gillespie. 

The family of the younger brother of the Irish peer own- 
ing the house prided themselves immensely on certain pink- 
silk blinds to the windows, which happened at that moment 
to be down. There must have been some very peculiar 
effect in the tint thrown by those blinds to have caused Sir 
Charles Mitford to stare so hard at the new-comer, or to 
lose all trace of his ordinary colour as he gazed at her. 

She spoke first. Her full lips parted over a brilliant set 
of teeth as with a slight inclination she said, " I have the 
pleasure of addressing Sir Charles Mitford ? Mrs Ham- 
mond begs me to say that she is at present in attendance 



142 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

upon Mr Hammond, who is forbidden to-day to leave his 
room ; but she hopes to be with you in a very few minutes." 

A polite but sufficiently ordinary speech ; certainly not 
in itself calculated to call forth .Mitford's rejoinder — " In 
God's name, how did you come here ? " 

" You still keep up that horrid habit of swearing ! Autre 
temps, autres inoeurs, as I teach my young lady from the 
French proverb-book. "What was it you asked? " 

" How did you come here ? what are you doing here ? " 

" I came here through the medium of the Ladies' Associa- 
tion for Instructors, to whom I paid a registration- fee of 
five shillings. What am I doing here ? Educating youth, 
and making myself generally useful. I am Miss Gillespie, 
of whom I know you have heard." 

" Tou have seen me before this, since — since the old 
days ? " 

" I don't know what is meant by ' old days.' I was born 
two years ago, just before Mrs Hammond married, and was 
christened Buth Gillespie. My mother was the Ladies' 
Association for Instructors, and she at once placed me 
where I am. Except this I have no past." 

" And your future ? " 

" Can take care of itself : sufficient for the day, &c. ; and 
the present days are very pleasant. There is no past for 
you either, is there ? so far as I am concerned, I mean. I 
first saw Sir Charles Mitford when I was sitting in Mrs 
Hammond's phaeton in the Park with my Shetland veil down, 
I recollect ; and as I had heard the story of the romantic 
manner in which he had succeeded to the title and estates, I 
asked full particulars about him from — well — my mistress. 
I learned that he had married, and that his wife was re- 
ported to be very lovely — oh, very lovely indeed ! " she al- 
most purred as she said this, and undulated as though about 
to spring. 

" Be good enough to leave my wife's name alone. Tou 
say there is no past for either of us. Let our present be 
as wide asunder as possible." 

" That all rests with you." 

" I wonder," said Sir Charles, almost below his breath, 
" what infernal chance has sent you here ! " 



bie Charles's visit. 143 

" If ' infernal ' were a word to be used by a lady — I 
doubt whether it should be used in a lady's presence ; but 
that is a matter of taste — I should reiterate your sentiment ; 
because, if you remark, you are the interloper and intruder. 
I am going on perfectly quietly, earning my living, giving 
every satisfaction to my employers, — living, in fact, like the 
virtuous peasant on the stage or in the penny romances, — 
when chance brings you into my line of life, and you at 
once grumble at me for being there." 

" You can understand fast enough, I suppose," said Sir 
Charles, sulkily, " that my associations with my former life 
are not such as I take great pleasure in recalling." 

" If a lady might say such a word, I should say, upon my 
soul I can't understand any such thing. Though I go 
quietly -enough in harness, and take my share of the collar- 
work too, they little think how I long sometimes to kick 
over the traces, to substitute Alfred de Musset for Fenelon 
in my pupil's reading, or to let my fingers and voice stray 
off from Adeste Fideles into Eh, ioup, ioup, ioup, tralala, lala ! 
How it would astonish them ! wouldn't it ? — -the files, I 
mean ; not Mrs Hammond, who knows everything, and I've 
no doubt would follow on with Mon pere est a Paris as 
naturally as possible." 

Sir Charles was by no means soothed by this rattle, but 
frowningly asked, " How long do you mean to remain 
here ? " 

" How long ? Well, my movements are of course con- 
trolled by Mrs Hammond. It is betraying no confidence 
to say that I know she is expecting an invitation to Red- 
moor (you see I know the name of your place) ; and as this 
house is not particularly comfortable, and your hospitality 
is boundless, I conclude, when once we get there, we 
shall not leave much before we return to town for the 
season." 

" We ! " exclaimed Sir Charles ; " why, do you mean to 
say that you are coming to stay at my house ? " 

" Of course I am. Mrs Hammond told me that she gave 
you distinctly to understand that she must bring Miss 
Gillespie with her when she came to stop atKedmoor," 

« True ; but then — " 



144 KUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

" Then you did not know Miss Gillespie. "Well, you'll 
find she's not a bad fellow, after all." 

" Look here," said Mitford with knitted brows and set 
teeth : " there's a point to which you may go, but which 
you sha'n't pass. If you dare to come into my house as my 
guest, look to yourself; for, by the Lord, it shall be the 
worse for you ! " 

" The privileges of the salt, monseigneur ! " cried Miss 
Gillespie, with a crisp laugh ; " the salt, ' that sacred pledge, 
which once partaken blunts the sabre's edge.' You would 
never abuse the glorious rites of hospitality ? " 

" You were always fond of d — d stage-jargon ; but you 
ought to have known me long enough to know that it would 
have no efiect on me. Take the warning I've given you in 
good part, and stay away." 

" And take the warning I give you in good part and in 
good earnest, Charles Mitford," said Miss Gillespie, with a 
sudden change of voice and manner ; " I've been tolerant 
to you hitherto for the sake of the old times which I love 
and you loathe ; but don't you presume upon that. I could 
crush you like a snail : now this is no stage-jargon, but sim- 
ple honest fact. You'll recollect that though perhaps a 
little given to rodomontade, in matters of business I was 
truthful. I can crush you like a snail ; and if you cross 
me in my desires, — which are of the humblest ; merely to 
be allowed to continue my present mode of life in peace, — 
so help me Heaven, I'll do it ! " 

All claws out here. 

" You mean war, then ? I'll — " 

" Hush ! not a word ; here's Mrs Hammond coming 
down. I do mean war, under circumstances ; but you won't 
drive me to that. Yes, as you say, Sir Charles, it is the 
very place for an invalid." 

As she spoke Mrs Hammond entered the room, looking 
very fresh and pretty ; her dark-blue merino dress with its 
close-fitting body displaying her round figure, and its 
sweeping skirts, and its tight sleeves, with natty linen cuffs. 
She advanced with outstretched hand and with a pleasant 
smile, showing all her fresh wholesome teeth. 

" So you've come at last," she said ; " it's no great com- 



sir Charles's visit. 1 1-j 

pliment to say that wo have anxiously expected you — for 
anything like the horror of tin's place you cannot imagine. 
Everybody vou meet looks as if that day were their last, 
and that they had just crawled out to take farewell of the 
sun. And there's not a soul we know here, except the 
doctor who's attending Mr Hammond, and he's an odious 
little chatterbox. And how is dear Lady Mitford ? and how 
did you find the house ? and did Captain Bligh make the 
arrangements as nicely as we thought he would ? Come, sit 
down and tell me all about it." 

It was at this period, and before they seated themselves, 
that Miss Gillespie said she thought she would go and see 
Avhat Alice was doing. And Mrs Hammond asked her to 
tell Xewman that Sir Charles Mitford would dine with 
them ; and that as he had a long drive home, they had 
better say six-o'clock dinner. And charged with these 
messages, Miss Gillespie retired. 

Then Mrs Hammond sunk down into a pleasant ottoman 
fitted into a recess close by the glowing fire, and Sir 
Charles Mitford, looking round for a seat, obeyed the silent 
invitation conveyed to him in her eyes and in the movement 
of her dress, and seated himself by her side. 

'■ "Well, you must have a great deal to tell me," she com- 
menced. " I saw in the Post that you had left town, and 
therefore imagined that Captain Bligh's arrangements were 
concluded. And how do you like Redmoor ? ' : 

" It's a glorious place, really a glorious place, though I've 
been rather bored there for the last two or three days — ■ 
wanted people there, you know, and that sort of thing. But 
the place itself is first-rate. I've chosen your rooms. I 
did that the first day." 

"Did you? " said she, her eyes sparkling with delight ; 
" and where are they ? " 

" They are in the south wing, looking over the civilized 
side of the country, and are to my thinking the very best 
rooms in the house." 

" And you chose them for us, and thought of us directly 
you arrived ! How very, very kind of you ! But suppose we 
should be unable to come ? " 

10 



140 KUNNINO THE GAUNTLET. 

" What ! unable to come ! Mrs Hammond, you're chaff- 
ing me, eh ? " 

" No, indeed. Mr Hammond's health is in that wretched 
state, that I doubt whether Dr Bronk would sanction his 
being moved, even to the soft air and all the luxuries of 
Uedmoor." 

" Oh, do him good, I'm sure ; could do him no possible 
harm. He should have everything he wanted, you know ; 
and the doctor could come spinning over there every day, 
for the matter of that. But at any rate you won't disappoint 
us?" 

" I don't think my not coming would be keenly felt by 
many." 

" It would by me," said Mitford in a low voice. 

She looked him full in the face for an instant. " I be- 
lieve it would," said she ; " frankly I believe it would ; " 
and she stretched out her hand almost involuntarily. Sir 
Charles took it, pressed it, and would have retained it, but 
she withdrew it gently. " No, that would never do. Mrs 
Grundy would have a great deal to say on the subject ; and 
besides, my place is at his side." If " his side " were her 
husband's, Mrs Hammond was far more frequently out of 
place than in it. " My place is by his side," she repeated, 
" Ah, Sir Charles, you've no idea what a life I lead ! " 

He was looking at her hand as she spoke, was admiring 
its plumpness and whiteness, and was idly following with 
his eye the track of the violet veins. There is a something 
legible in the back of a hand, something which chiromancy 
wots not of, and Sir Charles Bell has left unexplained. 
Mitford was wondering whether he read this problem aright 
when the last words fell on his ear ; and feelin°- it was 
necessary that he should reply, said, " It must be dull, eh ? " 

" Dull ! you've no conception how dull. And I often 
think I was meant for something different, — something 
better than a sick-man's nurse, to bear his whims, and 
be patient under his irritability. I often think — But 
what nonsense I'm talking! — what are my thoughts to 
you ? " 

" A great deal more than you know of. Go on, please." 



sir Charles's visit. 147 

" I often think that if I had been married to a man who 
could understand me, who could appreciate me, I should 
have been a very happy and a good woman. Good and 
happy ! God knows very different from what I am now." 

With her right hand she touched her eyes with a deli- 
cate little handkerchief. In her left hand she had held a 
small feather fan, with which she had screened herself from 
the fire ; but the fan had fallen to the floor and lay there 
unnoticed, while the hand hung listlessly by her side close 
by Sir Charles. Gradually their hands touched, and this 
time she made no effort to withdraw hers from his clasp. 

There was silence for a few moments, broken by her say- 
ing, " There, there is an end of that ! It is but seldom that 
I break down, and show myself in my true colours ; but 
there is something in you which- — inexplicably to myself — 
won my confidence, and now I've bored you with my trou- 
bles. There, let me go now, and I'll promise never to be 
so silly again." She struggled to free her hand, but he 
held it firmly. 

" Leave it there," said he • " you have not misplaced your 
confidence, as you know very well. Oh, you needn't shake 
your head ; you know that I would do anything to serve 
you." 

He spoke in a low earnest voice ; and as she looked up 
at him with one of her long deep dreamy looks, she saw a 
sudden thrill run through him, and felt his hand which held 
hers tremble. 

" I do know it," she said ; " and we will be the best, the 
very best of friends. Now let us talk of something else." 

He was with her the whole of that day in a state of 
dreamful happiness, drinking in the music of her voice, 
watching her graceful motions, delighted with a certain bold 
recklessness, a contempt for the conventional rules of 
society, a horror of obedience to prescribed ordinances, 
which now and then her conversation betrayed. They saw 
nothing more of Miss Gillespie, save at dinner, when Mit- 
ford noticed that Mrs Hammond made no alteration in her 
manner towards him, unless indeed it was a little more pro* 
nonce than when they had been alone. Miss Gil|espie did not 



148 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



appear to remark it, but sat and purred from time to time 
in a very amiable and pleasant manner. She retired after 
dinner, and then Sir Charles's phaeton was brought round, 
and it was time to say adieu. 

He said it in the little library, where the brother of the 
Irish peer kept his boots and his driving-whips, as he was 
lighting a cigar for which Mrs Hammond held a cedar- 
match. As he bent over her, he felt her breath upon bis 
face, and felt his whiskers touch her scented hair. He 
had not been inattentive to some Burgundy, which the in- 
valid upstairs had specially commended to him in a message, 
and his blood coursed like fire through his veins. At that 
moment Miss Gillespie appeared at the open door with a 
glove which she had found in the hall, and with her dark- 
green eyes gleaming with rage. So Sir Charles only took 
Mrs Hammond's hand, whispering " Friends ? " receiving a 
long pressure and " Always ! " for answer ; and passing 
with a bow Miss Gillespie, whose eyes still gleamed fero- 
ciously sprang into his phaeton and drove oft*. 

That last pressure of Mrs Hammond's hand was on his 
hand, that last word of hers rung in his ear all the way 
home. All the way home his fevered fancy brought her 
image alluringly before him— more frequently, more allur- 
ingly than it had been in his morning's drive. But there 
was another figure which he had not thought of in the 
morning, and which now rose up ; — the figure of a woman, 
green-eyed, pale-faced, eat -like in her motions. And when 
Sir Charles Mitford thought of her, he stamped his foot 
savagely and swore. 



CHAPTER XIV 

IN THE TOILS. 



Sir Charles Mitford had not been guilty of any exaggera- 
tion when he announced his intention of filling his house at 
Eedmoor with a very pleasant set of people. If a man have 
a kindly genial temper, a sense of humour, a desire to be 



IN THE TOILS. 1 !•«) 

pleasant to his fellow-creatures, such qualities, however 
they may have hitherto been concealed, will make them- 
selves felt during a sojourn at a friend's well-filled country- 
house. There the heavy man, who has sat by one at a 
dozen dinner-parties during the season and never opened 
his mouth except to fill it, is discovered to be full of anti- 
quarian erudition about the old castles and abbeys in the 
neighbourhood ; and imparts his information, pleasantly 
studded with quaint anecdote and pungent remark. There 
Lady Katherine gives up her perpetual simper, and rests 
her aching lips, and occasionally covers her gleaming teeth. 
There Mrs Phillimore mixes for a while with people in her 
own rank of life, and temporarily denies herself the plea- 
sure of hunting orphans into asylums, and dealing out tea 
and Bibles to superannuated crones. Grinsby would have 
gone through life despised as a cockney litterateur, — indeed, 
they intended to have immense fun out of him at the 
Duke's, — -if he had not knocked over that brace of wood- 
cock, right and left barrel ; if, in fact, he had not made 
better shooting than any other man of the party ; and Tom 
Copus would never have given that delicious imitation of 
little Mr Loudswell, the blatant barrister, had it not been 
coaxed out of him during the private theatricals at Evers- 
holt Park. What glorious flirtations, what happy mar- 
riages, what fun, enjoyable at the time, and lasting source of 
retrospective enjoyment for long after, have arisen from the 
gatherings in country-houses ! In these days of imitation 
it is also gratifying to know that country-house society is 
essentially English. Monseigneur le Due de Hausse et 
Baisse has a gathering at his terre, or the Graf von Hasen- 
braten fills his ancestral castle at Suchverloren with in- 
tending assistants at a treibejagd : but the Erench people 
are very unhappy • they long to be back in Paris, and they 
seek consolation in dressing and behaving exactly as if they 
had never quitted that city ; while the manner of life 
among the Germans alters never ; — to shoot a very little, 
to eat and drink a great deal, and the " sooner it's over the 
sooner to sleep," — such are the simple conditions of Teu- 
tonic happiness. 

The party at Eedmoor was large and well constituted. 



150 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

Captain and Mrs Charfceris, whom everybody knew, were 
there. Tom Charteris had been in the Enniskillens ; had 
run through all his money, and was in daily expectation of 
being sold up, when his uncle, the senior partner in a large 
distillery, died, leaving Tom such a share in the business 
as would bring him in an excellent income, on the sole con- 
dition that he should leave the army, and personally attend 
to the management of the distillery. It is probable that 
Tom would have been sufficiently idiotic to refuse compli- 
ance with these conditions ; but, fortunately, he had taken 
to himself a wife, a young lady who was the daughter of the 
church-organist in a little town where the Enniskillens had 
been quartered, and who gave lessons in music and singing 
to the resident gentry. She was a pretty piquante little 
person ; and Tom, lounging out of the barrack- window while 
he smoked his after-breakfast pipe, had seen her tripping 
to and fro, always neat, active, and sprightly, and always 
displaying a remarkably pretty foot and ankle. Admiration 
of pretty feet and ankles was among Tom's weaknesses, and 
he watched the little music-mistress with great interest, and 
began to look forward to her daily appearance with delight. 
Then he got an introduction to her, — without any definite 
end or aim, for good or for bad, but simply to amuse him- 
self ; then he became fascinated by her, and finally he 
married her. It was Mrs Tom who insisted upon big jolly 
old Tom giving up the army and taking to the distillery and 
the money. She was a funny little woman, and would make 
her intimates shout with laughter at her imitation of Tom 
striding about the counting-house among the clerks (he 
never could get rid of hi3 dragoon- swagger), and talking 
a haw-haw to the publicans who came to borrow money or 
beg for time. They had a pretty little house in Clarges 
Street, whence Tom would bowl away every morning at 9.30 
to the distillery in Barbican, remaining there till half-past 
four, when Mrs Tom would call for him in the brougham, 
and air him in the park till dinner-time. Everybody knew 
them, and hats were bobbing off over the iron-railings all 
down the Drive as they passed. Whenever a stoppage 
occurred Tom had to stand a running fire of chaff, being 
asked what it was a quartern, whether he'd like a drop of 



IN THE TOILS. 151 

something short, with other jokes, in which the phrases 
"white tape" and "blue ruin" played conspicuous parts. 
The little house in Clarges Street was a great resort for a 
select few after the Opera, and many well-known men would 
drop in to have the claw of a lobster and a glass of cham- 
pagne, or to smoke a final cigar whilst listening to Mrs 
Tom's brilliant playing. — till two a.m., when Tom turned 
his guests out, declaring he was a poor tradesman, and had 
to be up early to business. The house was a pleasant one, 
where there was a certain amount of laissez-aller freedom, 
but where Tom took care that his wife was thoroughly re- 
spected. 

Then Mrs Masters, always spoken of as " pretty Mrs 
Masters," or "the pretty widow," was of the party, — a tall 
handsome woman with large eyes and masses of floating 
light brown hair, relict of old Dr Masters, who had left her 
a capital income, which she seemed determined to keep to 
herself. Not more than eight-and-twenty, and eminently 
attractive, she was a source of wonder to her friends, who 
could not understand why she did not marry again. She 
had numbers of visitors, male and female ; she went into 
society constantly, and did her due share of dancing and 
flirtation; but the latter was so mild in kind, and so general in 
its nature, that no man's name had ever been coupled with 
hers. Her most intimate enemies raised a report that she 
was at one time madly in love with Colonel Alsager ; but if 
there was any truth in the rumour, she managed her mad- 
ness so admirably as never to show a trace of it. She was 
invaluable in a country-house, for she was thoroughly good- 
tempered, entered heart and soul into everything that was 
proposed, and was a great bait for vain bachelors, whose 
vanity was specially piqued at her long resistance to the 
charms of their sex. With Mrs Masters came her cousins, 
two young ladies named Tyrrell, whose father was a judge 
in India, who were of the ordinary stamp of pretty, pert, 
self-satisfied twenty -year-olds. 

The other ladies in the house do not call for description. 
Chief amongst the men was Captain Bligh, who, as he walked 
about and inspected the alterations which had been made 
under his directions, wondered whether his old father would 



132 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

ever relent, and whether he should have a chance of putting 
the old hall down in Norfolk in order for himself; or 
whether he should go on betting and billiard-playing and 
steeplechase-riding until he " went a tremendous mucker," 
and either blew his brains out or levanted. And there 
was Major "VVinton, who, dressed in a pair of enormous 
thigh-boots, a dreadnaught, and a sou'-wester, and accom- 
panied by a keeper, went away every morning at dawn to 
lie out in the marshes for snipe and wild-fowl, and who 
did not return till dinner-time ; immediately after which 
meal he was accustomed to retire to his bed-room, where a 
case-bottle of brandy, a jar of Cavendish tobacco, a huge 
meerschaum-pipe, and the adventures of the Chevalier 
Paublas, were awaiting him ; and with these he would 
occupy himself until he went to bed. Laurence Alsager 
was at Redmoor also, though his visit to his father was yet 
unpaid ; and so was Lord Dollamore. The officers of the 
garrison had called, and the officers of the frigate cruising 
off Torquay, and the neighbouring gentry ; and the whole 
party seemed to enjoy themselves except Sir Charles Mit- 
ford, — whose happiness was not to be long delayed, for the 
Hammonds were expected on a certain day, which now 
dawned upon the impatient master of Redmoor. 

He had returned home after luncheon, leaving the shoot- 
ing party under the charge of Captain Bligh, and had been 
in a state of undisguisable anxiety all the afternoon, unable 
to settle himself to anything ; now playing a stroke or two 
at billiards, and looking on at Tom Charteris, who was prac- 
tising certain hazards preparatory to a match with Bligh ; 
now strolling through the drawing-room, where Alsager was 
talking to Lady Mitford and Mrs Masters ; now interrupt- 
ing Lord Dollamore, Avho was stretched out in an easy-chair 
in the library reading Montaigne. Sir Charles's impatience 
and restlessness was not unobserved by any of these. 
Tom Charteris supposed he was already sick of the quiet of 
the country, and contemplated recommending him a turn 
in the distillery by way of a cure. Lady Mitford could 
not understand his restlessness, and feared Charley had 
been annoyed about something. Mrs Masters ascribed it 
to want ofsavoir faire on the Baronet's part. Only Colonel 



IN THE TOILS. l->) 

Alsager and Lord Dollamore guessed its real cause. The 
former frowned portentously as he watched his host ; and 
the latter was considerably amused. 

" This is positively a very delicious experience of life," 
thought Dollamorc, as he laid aside his book ; " I could not 
have had a more charming field for study. So many dif- 
ferent characters too ! There is that remarkably uncouth 
person our host, who is so horribly raw and undisciplined 
as to be unable to behave himself decently when expecting 
the last object of his calf-love, And there's that modern 
Bayard, Alsager, who has undoubtedly a tendrcsxc, for our 
hostess, and who as undeniably wore Laura Hammond's 
colours a little time ago, and bolted because of some inex- 
plicable row Avith her. And there's Laura Hammond her- 
self — delicious creature — with a newly-caught mouse in her 
mouth ; and yet her eye constantly roving over the late 
captive playing round her, lest he should escape beyond 
possibility of recapture. There's that good-looking widow, 
too, who is as cold as ice, but who is supposed to have 
thawed a little once in Bayard's favour. And then there's 
Lady Mitford herself, who is worth all the rest of the 
women put together. "What grace, what beauty, what 
thoroughly unsophisticated charms and real naturalness of 
manner ! By Jove ! compared to her, the widow is a 
girafle, and the Hammond a dairy-maid. Talk of their 
birth and breeding ! why this country-parson's daughter has 
the air and manner of a duchess. They will try and set 
upon her when she comes to town, — that old Clanronald, 
who looks like a cook, and the Tappington with her three 
daughters like grenadiers in petticoats ; but if she has any 
pluck — and I think she has, under all that quietude — she'll 
ride them down right and left ; and she'll have all the men 
on her side, though I don't know that that's any pull. 
Meantime this oaf is entertaining an angel unawares, and 
neglecting her, — is standing at the door of his tent ogling 
the daughters of the Cities of the Plain. So much the 
better for Bayard and — and for others. But the imbroglio 
is delightful, and I couldn't wish for better fun than to 
stand by and watch the play ; cutting-in of course when I 
see a chance of holding winning cards." 



154 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

And then Lord Dollarnore rubbed his hands with great 
gusto, and applied himself with renewed delight to his 
volume of French philosophy. 

At length the noise of wheels on the hard drive was 
heard, and Sir Charles rang the bell and summoned the 
servants, and had the hall-door thrown open, and stood on 
the steps ready to receive his guests in person. Drawn by 
four horses at full gallop, Mr Hammond's carriage came 
thundering along the drive, and ere it pulled up at the 
door Lady Mitford had joined her husband, prepared to 
echo his words of welcome. "With her came Colonel 
Alsager, — carrying in his hand a light shawl, which he 
pressed upon her acceptance when he saw the door open, 
and felt the rush of the cold air, Avhich sent the flames 
roaring up from the great open fireplace, — and also Lord 
Dollamore, who smiled placidly to himself as he saw this 
act of attention. " None but your regular Bayard would 
have done that," said he to himself; "wonderfully thought- 
ful fellows they are, by Jove ! " He suffered under a slight 
lameness, and always carried a Malacca cane, with an ivory 
crutch-handle, declared by the men at the club to be hia 
familiar, the recipient of his confidence, and the suggester 
of many of his iniquities. He carried it now, and rapped 
it against his teeth, and laid it to his ear, as though he were 
listening to its counsel. 

" There they are," he continued, " in a close carriage of 
course, because of my husband's health ; but I'm at the 
open window, and remarkably well I look. Blue always 
became me, and my eyes are bright, and I've got a high 
colour. How do you do ? My hand out at the window, 
and a very palpable squeeze to the oaf, who is blushing, by 
Jove, like a great schoolboy, — a very palpable squeeze. 
Steps down now, and, leaning heavily on his arm, out we 
jump, and — yes, dear Lady Mitford ! Kiss, kiss — you 
she-Judas ! — and — hallo ! rather astonished at seeing Ba- 
yard, eh ? How do you do, Colonel Alsager ? I scarcely 
thought you would be here. No, of course not ; one string 
too many for her bow. Now for me ! — -Needn't ask you 
how you are, Mrs Hammond ; never saw you looking more 
charming. — And she smiles and passes on. Lord help us ! 



IN THE TOILS. 155 

is this Percy Hammond, this unfortunate object that they 
are helping out now ? "Why, he's only a year or two older 
than I ; left Haileybury while I was at Eton ; but what an 
awful wreck he is ! What on earth made him marry a 
second time, — especially such a woman as this ! Hallo ! 
who have we here ? Tall young woman ; severely got up, 
but a neat figure, and a good stepper too. Very cold bow 
from Sir Charles ; little hand- shake from my lady. Must 
be the governess. O yes, that's it ; and there's the child. 
Now, then, all the characters are assembled ; ring up the 
curtain — the play's begun." 

Lord Dollamore was right ; it had been a palpable hand- 
squeeze, palpable to him, palpable to Laurence Alsager, 
palpable to her from whom it should have been specially 
hidden — Lady Mitford. She saw it, but could scarcely be- 
lieve she had seen aright ; but then she noticed the manner 
in which Mrs Hammond leaned on Sir Charles's arm, and 
a certain look which passed between them as she alighted. 
The next instant her guest had caught hold of both her 
hands, and was embracing her with effusion ; but just be- 
fore G-eorgie had had time to steal one glance at Laurence 
Alsager' s face, and to read in the lowering brow and com- 
pressed lips that he too had noticed the empressement of the 
meeting. The whole thing was so thoroughly strange to 
her, so utterly unexpected, that she did not know how to 
act. Her first impulse was to drag herself out of Mrs 
Hammond's embrace, to call her a false bad woman, and to 
go off in a flood of tears ; but fortunately she did not at- 
tempt this experiment. She did the very best thing under 
the circumstances, and that was — nothing. She freed her- 
self from her visitor's embracing arms when she had unre- 
sponsive received her kiss, and murmured a few common- 
places about her delight at seeing her ; and then she went 
forward to say a passing word of kindness to Mr Hammond 
as he was helped past her by his servants, to exchange 
salutations with Miss Gillespie, and to kiss the child's fore- 
head. By this time she was perfectly ready to do the 
honours of her house, and to follow her husband, on whose 
arm Mrs Hammond was already leaning, to the suite of 
rooms prepared for the guests. These were, as Sir Charles 



loG RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

had said, the best in the house ; and as they entered them, 
Georgie remembered how he had specially reserved them 
for the Hammonds, and she winced as her eye lighted on a 
splendid bouquet of hot-house flowers arranged in a vase 
on the writing-table. The fires burned brightly, and there 
was a sufficient air of comfort to justify Mrs Hammond in 
clasping her hands and exclaiming, " How very, very charm- 
ing ! Everything in such exquisite taste ; and oh, what 
lovely flowers, Lady Mitford ! you know my passion for 
flowers, and have indeed taken pains to gratify it. G-eorgie 
bowed in an icy manner, and Sir Charles glowed from his 
head to his feet. 

" It's too late to look out now, but I've no doubt that 
the prospect's delightful." 

" Looks towards the south. Good for Hammond, and 
that kind of thing," said Sir Charles, explanatorily. 

" We'll leave you now, Mrs Hammond ; the first dinner- 
bell has just rung," said Georgie, moving towards the door. 

" Anything you want you've only to ring for, you know ; 
so find out something to ask for by dinner-time. Do ! you 
know you've only to ask and have in this house." 

Georgie did not hear this last remark. She was hurry- 
ing as quickly as she could towards her own room ; and on 
reaching it she flung herself on a sofa, and burst into tears. 

It was the custom at Bedmoor to assemble previous to 
the announcement of dinner in the library, — a large room, 
rather solemn with its dark oak bookcases, and when 
lighted only by two or three moderator-lamps, placed on 
small tables. Such was Sir Charles's whim ; he had a 
notion that the removal from darkness to light awoke a 
corresponding cheerfulness ; and though it had been often 
combated by Georgie, on this occasion she was grateful for 
any respite from the public gaze, and every opportunity of 
recovering her wonted calmness. Clang ! goes the gong. 
" Dinner is served." Through the indistinct gloom Mrs 
Hammond is seen sailing away on the arm of Sir Charles. 
Alsager has the widow for his companion, and feels a thrill 
run up his coat-sleeve, to which the arm within his coat- 
sleeve does not respond. There are officers from the gar- 
rison, who file off with the Tyrrell girls and with the young 



IN TTIE TOILS. ]57 

ladies, members of the neighbouring families ; and the pro- 
cession is closed by Lady Mitford, escorted by Lord Dolla- 
more, who takes the opportunity of saying, " Charming 
woman Mrs Hammond ; so frank, ingenuous, and open ! 
So devoted to her poor invalid husband — don't yon think 
so?" And when Lady Mitford responds, "Yes, O yes, 
quite so," Lord Dollamore lifts the ivory crutch-handle of 
his Malacca cane to his mouth, and seems whispering to it 
untenable jokes. 

The dinner was very good ; but that was more due to 
Bligh than to any one else, even to Lady Mitford. The 
chef who had been let to the Mitfords with the house in 
Eaton Place had stuck to his bargain, and refused to go 
into the country. He had his club, his menus plaisirs, and 
he declined to leave them. So the jolly Captain looked 
about, took Mrs Austin the housekeeper into confidence, 
and found out from her that there was a woman who had 
lived as kitchenmaid in the first families, and who had 
always thought of bettering herself, but never had the 
chance, and was then at Sir John Rumbold's, hard by This 
person was fetched over, and directed to try her prentice- 
hand at cooking a steak and a potato for Captain Bligh, 
that achievement being, as he opined, the great touchstone 
of the culinary art ; and having been thoroughly successful, 
she was borrowed for a few days and further tried, and 
finally engaged. The dinner was so good that every one 
enjoyed it, even poor Percy Hammond, who had roused 
himself sufficiently to come to table, and whose eyes 
brightened under the influence of a bottle of the celebrated 
old Madeira placed at his side. It was not the old Madeira 
which caused Mrs Hammond's eyes to brighten, but they 
had never shone more brilliantly, and her spirits had never 
been higher. She talked incessantly, addressing her con- 
versation chiefly to her host, on whose right hand she was 
seated. 

" I suppose you have some charming old places about 
here, Sir Charles ? — abbeys, and ruins, and castles," said 
she after a pause. 

" I daresay there are, but as I have only just come here, 
you know, I can't say. Major Maxse, no doubt, can tell 



158 BUNKING THE GAUNTLET. 

you ; they've been quartered in the neighbourhood for the 
last twelve months, and know every inch of it. — Maxse, 
Mrs Hammond asks whether there are any old ruins, 
castles, abbeys, that sort of thing, in the neighbourhood. I 
tell her she should inquire of you, as the likeliest person to 
know." 

Major Maxse, the gentleman addressed, a good-looking 
middle-aged man, replied, " "Well, I really think I might 
earn an honest livelihood by setting up as guide to this 
region. Though we've been here little more than a twelve- 
month, I've been so horribly bored that I think I have 
explored every nook and corner of the country within a 
circle of fifty miles ; and I am very happy to tell Mrs 
Hammond that there are all sorts of ruins for her to choose 
from, with all sorts of architecture, and all sorts of legends 
attached. For example, there's Egremont Priory." 

" That's Boscastle's place, isn't it ? " said Lord Dolla- 
more, from the other end of the table ; " who made the 
legend about that ? one of the family probably ; for there 
never was a Boscastle yet who was known to speak truth, 
even by accident." 

" First-rate place for wild-ducks," said Major Winton : 
" don't send any confounded picnic people there, Maxse ; 
they'll scare the birds." 

" Even at the risk of being considered confounded picnic 
people, if it's a pretty place, and has a good story attached 
to it, I propose that we make a party and go," said Georgie. 

She was a little astonished at herself when she had said 
this, but" she had said it purposely. She was wondering what 
it was that had attracted her husband in Mrs Hammond 
which she herself did not possess ; and she thought perhaps 
it was a certain dash and verve, to which she had never 
pretended, but which her rival undoubtedly displayed. 
Poor G-eorgie felt that perhaps she had been a little too 
tame and sedate ; and this speech was her first attempt in 
the opposite direction. 

" Charmingly said, Lady Mitford ; the very thing," said 
Mrs Hammond. " And I think we could go, even of there 
were no story at all — " 

(l There's a round tower which is occupied by an old wo- 



IN THE TOILS. 159 

man, who'll boil potatoes, and lay the cloth, and that kind 
of thing — all under shelter, you know," said Captain Bligh, 
who was of an eminently practical turn. 

'• no ; but we must have the legend," said Lord Dolla- 
more. " Come, Major Maxse, you don't get off telling us 
the Boscastle legend." 

" Oh, it's the old story with the usual ingredients — love 
and a ghost," said Major Maxse. 

" Tes ; but what love ? whose ghost ? " asked Mrs Ham- 
mond. " You promised to tell me, Major Maxse, and we're 
all attention." 

" It is simply this. After the Restoration Roger Bos- 
castle, who had been serving with the Royalists from the 
beginning of the war, and who had had to fly the country after 
Naseby, came back to his estates and to his wife, who 
during her husband's absence had been living with her own 
family, strict Parliamentarians. Lady Boscastle was a very 
lovely woman ; but a little strict and rigid, and scarcely 
suited to a rollicking swash-buckler like her husband. One 
day there arrived at Egremont Priory a troop of horse 
escorting a beautiful lady and her father, both foreigners, 
who had done the king much service in time of need, and 
who had known Roger Boscastle when abroad. Roger 
seemed very much surprised to see them, and so did Lady 
Mildred ; the latter more especially when first the old 
nobleman threw his arms round Roger's neck and exclaim- 
ed, " Mon fils ! " and then the young lady did ditto and 
exclaimed, " Mon amour ! " but they were neither of them 
so astonished as were the old gentleman and the young 
lady when Roger led Lady Mildred forward and presented 
her as his wife. They were thoroughly taken aback, and 
the young lady muttered to Roger under her breath some- 
thing which Lady Mildred could not catch, but which, by 
the expression of her eyes, must have been very unpleasant. 
However, they took up their abode in the castle, whither 
they had been commended by the king ; and they were very 
polite, especially the lady, to Mildred, who hated her with 
such hatred as is only felt by a woman who suspects another 
of carrying on with her husband." 

" Bravo, Maxse ! " interrupted Lord Dollamore ; " gad, 



160 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

that's really quite graphic, — that last sentence. You've 
mistaken your profession, Maxse ; you ought to have been 
an author." 

" I'm afraid the last sentence was cribbed from the Guide- 
book to the county. However, to cut my story short, one 
night Lady Mildred overheard a conversation between her 
husband and Pepita (that was the foreign lady's name), 
from which it was pretty clear that Roger had represented 
himself as a single man when abroad, and had actually mar- 
ried Pepita. Then Mildred had a stormy interview with 
Roger, and told him of her intention to leave him the next 
day and go to her brother. But the next morning she was 
found dead, stabbed to the heart with a dagger, round the 
handle of which was a scrap of paper, inscribed ' In a 
Spaniard's way ; ' and Pepita, her father, and Roger Bos- 
castle were all gone. The latter came back when quite an 
old man, but was found dead in his bed the morning after 
his arrival ; frightened, it is supposed, by the ghost of Lady 
Mildred, which in stormy weather duly walks the castle, 
wringing its hands and waving the bloody dagger in the air." 

" No, I don't like the last bit," said Lord Dollamore ; 
" too much like Richardson's show. All the rest very good 
and dramatic ; don't you think so, Lady Mitford ? " 

" Oh, very good indeed — thoroughly interesting ; and, as 
usual, the only innocent person in the story was punished." 

" That was because she was innocent," said Lord Dolla- 
more ; " there must have been eligible persons, even among 
her Roundhead friends ; how very much better to have 
consoled herself with — " 

" As usual, you miss the point of the story, Lord Dolla- 
more," said Alsager, hotly interrupting ; " surely it would 
have been better to have been the murdered than the 
murderess in such a case." 

" It's very lucky there are not any such cases now-a-days," 
said Sir Charles. " No woman would put a knife into 
another now " 

" Into any one who stood between me and my love I 
would, for one," said Mrs Hammond under her breath ; and 
she looked for a moment so fierce, that Mitford said, " Glad, 
I believe you ! " in a similar tone. 



10GUKMONT PEIOEY. 161 

When the ladies had left the room Laurence Alsager 
said to Lord Dollamore : " You had heard that story 
before ? " 

" What story, my dear Alsager ? " 

" The legend of Egreinont Priory." 

" Had I ? Xot unlikely. You know I'm a very ec- 
centric reader, and delight in odd stories." 

" It's a pity you did not save Maxse the trouble of tell- 
ing it again." 

" Do you think so ? "Well, do you know I can't agree 
with you ? Its recital seemed to bring out the character 
of some of our friends in the highest degree ; and if there 
is airy thing I delight in, it is the study of character." 



CHAPTER XV 



EGREMONT PRIORY. 



Lady Mitford's proposition of a visit to Egremont Priory, 
though originally made in a kind of bravado, was remem- 
bered by most of her guests — notably by Mrs Hammond, 
who saw in it a better chance of flirtation than she had had 
since her arrival at Redmoor. Ever since Greorgie had no- 
ticed the warm lingering hand-pressure exchanged between 
her husband and her visitor on that occasion, she had been 
thoroughly on the qui vive, and, like most young women 
ignorant of the world's ways, had imagined that the best 
way to nip a flirtation in the bud was by being perpetually 
observant of all that took place, and by letting the guilty 
persons know that their conduct was watched. It requires 
considerable experience before a woman discovers that — so 
long as the affair is confined within certain bounds — totally 
to ignore its existence is her very best policy ; a policy 
which saves her from infinite domestic discomfort, and is be- 
sides the only possible method of galling her rival. 

But Georgie was not only young, but country-bred, — 
which means a great deal, for London girls at seventeen 
know more of the world than country girls at iive-aud- 

11 



162 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



twenty, — and had had scarcely any experience. So she 
went to work naturally, and betrayed her anger in the 
plainest manner, — in perpetual supervision, in lip-bitings 
and hand-clenchings, in occasional tears, which would come 
welling up into her eyes, however far back she might hold 
her head, and were perfectly visible, however hastily brushed 
away. To Mrs Hammond, who was a practised duellist, all 
this behaviour was delightful ; she took it as a tribute to her 
own powers of fascination, and was proportionately pleased. 
Flirtation, in its strongest sense, was absolutely necessary 
to her existence ; but she never condescended to boys, and 
she regarded officers, when merely officers and nothing 
more, as very small game. She liked to entangle men of 
position and celebrity, no matter how grave or how old 
(she had perfectly charmed a bachelor bishop ; and the 
enemies of one of our greatest physicians declared that his 
wife rendered his home unbearable on account of his atten- 
tions to Mrs Hammond) ; and the latest literary, artistic, or 
theatrical lion was usually to be found hovering about her. 
But far beyond anything else she liked a flirtation with 
the husband of an acknowledged pretty woman ; and the 
more beautiful the wife, the more bent was Laura Ham- 
mond on captivating the husband. That gave her greater 
eclat than anything else, and she liked eclat. She liked 
being talked about, — up to a certain point ; she liked 
women to express their wonder at what men could see in 
her to rave about ; she liked to have repeated to her what 
men said at clubs : " 'Str'ord'nary little woman the Ham- 
mond ! There's Cosmo Gordon been everywhere with her, 
leaving that lovely wife of his all by herself, by Jove ! 
"What the doose can there be in her?" and other speeches 
of a like nature. She also liked to be on good terms with 
the wives of her admirers — a thing by no means so difficult 
as might be imagined by the inexperienced. There are 
women so spaniel-like in their nature that they will fawn 
on those who injure them ; and some of these consorted 
with Mrs Hammond with a vain idea of propitiating her by 
their forbearance, and thus inducing her to give up the 
chase. She had at first thought that Greorgie Mitford 
might be of this order ; but she was by no means disap- 



EGREMONT PRIORY. 163 

pointed to find her otherwise. She gloried in a contest 
out of which she could come victorious, and despised all 
easy triumphs ; there was pleasure in captivating a man 
whose position or celebrity reflected lustre on his enslaver ; 
but there was tenfold pleasure when he, in his blind in- 
fatuation, set the rules of society at defiance, and openly 
neglected the wife whose beauty had hitherto been his 
greatest pride. 

So Mrs Hammond reminded Sir Charles that dear Lady 
Mitford had expressed a wish that they should go over in a 
party to Egremont Priory, and suggested that he had better 
see about it at once. Of course Sir Charles saw about it 
immediately; told Bligh to have some luncheon sent over 
the next day, and to mind that they had a big fire in the 
keep, for it was anything but picnic weather ; wrote a line 
to Major Maxse and other officers to join them ; and pro- 
ceeded to poll his visitors as to how they would go over to 
the spot. How would Mrs Hammond go ? How ? Oh, 
wouldn't dear Lady Mitford ride over with her on horse- 
back ? they could get some gentlemen to escort them ; and 
it would be delightful. Dear Lady Mitford was much 
obliged, but would rather not. Mrs Hammond could ride 
over on horseback if she chose, and doubtless would find 
plenty of cavaliers ; but Lady Mitford would drive in 
a pony-phaeton. Ah, of course ! Mrs Hammond had for- 
gotten Lady Mitford's charming experience of pony-phae- 
tons ; and as she said this she looked round with a light 
and pleasant smile at Colonel Alsager, who was pulling his 
black beard, and glowering horribly close by. Sir Charles 
Mitford had no objection to Greorgie's going in a phaeton — no 
objection to her driving, for the matter of that ; but since 
that accident, it would be better, he thought, to have some 
one reliable in coachmanship sitting by her : Lord Dolla- 
more, for instance ? But Dollamore declared he was the 
worst whip in the world ; his horrible rheumatism had 
crippled his hands ; and why should not that tremendous 
fellow Alsager, who had already earned the medal of the 
Humane Society — why should not he go ? Ay, Alsager 
was the very man, Sir Charles thought ; and Laurence, 
though he saw every atom of the play on Dollamore's part, 



164 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

and felt himself completely jockeyed into the position, 
could discern no way out of it, and assented with apparent 
delight. He was not too pleased to see a certain look 
of terror which had pervaded Lady Mitford's face when 
Dollamore was proposed as charioteer fade away when the 
other arrangement was finally decided upon. Many men 
would have taken the change as a compliment ; but Lau- 
rence had had experience, and thought otherwise. Lord 
Dollamore, Tom and Mrs Charteris, one of the Tyrrell girls, 
and Captain Bligh, might post over in the break ; in which 
also went the luncheon-hampers. Fred Aspen, Ellen Tyr- 
rell, and Major "Winton, would ride. So the stud-groom 
had his orders, and all was arranged. Sir Charles had not 
said how he intended to go to Egremont Priory, and yet no 
one was surprised, when the cavalcade was on the point of 
setting out, to see his big horse Tambour Major brought 
out by the stud-groom, who was closely followed by a 
helper leading Lady Jane — a very dai'k iron-gray mare — 
with a lady's saddle on her. No one doubted for an 
instant for whom the lady's horse was intended. A bright 
red spot burned on Lady Mitford's cheek ; and as she set- 
tled herself in the phaeton by Laurence's side, she said in 
a loud and marked tone, " I hope, Colonel Alsager, I shall 
not have occasion to-day to increase the debt of gratitude I 
already owe to you." 

Mrs Masters raised her eyebrows as Lord Dollamore as- 
sisted her into the break, and afterwards had two minutes' 
confidential whispering with Miss Tyrrell ; and Mrs Char- 
teris had scarcely time to frown down old Tom, who was 
always full of his gauclieries, before he had ejaculated, 
" Making the running early, eh ? ah, haw, haw ! " 

Sir Charles Mitford saw nothing of this little perform- 
ance ; but Mrs Hammond, whose eyes and' ears were every- 
where at once, lost not one single scrap of it. So, just be- 
fore the word for starting was given, while Mrs Masters 
was doing her whispering, and Lady Mitford was burning 
with anger, and Captain Bligh was peering into the various 
hampers to see that nothing had been forgotten ; while Sir 
Charles himself, intoxicated with her wonderful piquancy 
(she never looked to such advantage as in her riding-habit), 



KOEEMONT PRIORY. 165 



O 



was coming across to mount her, she turned calmly round, 
and said in a voice which could be heard by all round, "No, 
— thanks, Sir Charles — I won't trespass on your attention. 
As host you have all sorts of things to look after and 
to do. — Major "Wmton, if that chestnut will stand for half a 
minute —here, hoy, look to his head ! — I'll get you to 
mount me, and if you'll permit me I'll join your party I'm 
the best of chaperons, Major; and when it's required, my 
talent for admiring the landscape is enormous." 

This last was uttered sotto voce, and with a quick side- 
glance towards Ellen Tyrrell. It was a clever move ; and 
though by no means convincing, had some effect on all the 
part v. Sir Chaides bowed, sprang on Tambour Major, and 
rode away with disgust plainly visible in every feature ; 
Lady Mitford looked disconcerted ; so did Alsager, 
though he understood it all ; Dollamore took his familiar 
stick in consultation, and whispered to it that she was 
a devilish clever little woman ; Tom Charteris winked 
quietly at his wife ; and Major Winton was delighted. He 
told some friends afterwards, in the freedom of barrack- 
room conversation, that he didn't go in for women's so- 
ciety and that sort of thing, you know, and he'd no idea he 
was so d — d nice. 

So they went on. The party in the break was very hu- 
morous ; they kept up a running fire of jokes against Bligh 
aboiit something being forgotten, and compelled him (na- 
turally a nervous man, and very proud of his arrangement 
of such matters) to dive frequently to the bottom of ham- 
pers and return with the supposed missing article in his 
hand, his face purple with stooping and triumph combined. 
Captain Bligh was not a humorist, but he retorted with 
several broad allusions to Tom Charteris's distillery ; and, a 
flash of old sporting experience having suddenly revealed to 
him that there was an affinity of meaning between the 
words 'gin' and 'snare,' he dilated thereon after a fashion 
that Mr George Cruikshank might have envied. They 
were very quiet in the pony-phaeton, for Georgie was an- 
noyed at having so plainly shown her anger; and Laurence, 
finding that his few remarks about the weather and the 
scenery only gained monosyllabic answers, soon lapsed into 



166 BUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

silence. Sir Charles was seen going across country at a 
great pace, apparently comforting himself by taking it out 
of Tambour Major, and clearing everything in first-rate 
style. The mounted party seemed to enjoy themselves 
most of all ; Major Winton was in the seventh heaven, for 
Mrs Hammond did all the talking, requiring him only to 
throw in an occasional word, and she looked so fascinating 
that he devoted himself to her during the ride, entirely 
neglecting Ellen Tyrrell — to that young lady's great grati- 
fication, be it said, as she regarded the Major as a fogie, 
and was infinitely better pleased with the attentions of one 
of the officers who joined the cavalcade just as it emerged 
on the Eedmoor 

The winter picnic passed off much more pleasantly than 
might have been augured from its commencement. During 
the drive Greorgie had had time deliberately to examine her- 
self, and to arrive at the conclusion that what she was 
doing was very foolish, and more than that, she was afraid, 
very wrong. It might be that her own jealousy had jaun- 
diced her ideas ; it might be that the pressure of the hand 
from which her misgiving first dated, was entirely imaginary. 
What right had she to suspect Charley of fickleness ? Had 
he not proved his truth in the noblest way, by coming back 
to her in the time of his prosperity and raising her to her 
present position ? Was it likely, then, that he would so 
suddenly change ? Yes, she had been very wrong to permit 
the growth of such horrible suspicions, and she would make up 
for it to Charley by tenfold warmth and affection. Greorgie's 
already-suffused face deepened in hue as she remembered 
what, in the bitterness of her spirit, she had said to Colonel 
Alsager on taking her seat in the phaeton. What could he 
have thought of lier ? Whatever he may have thought, 
nothing could be gathered from the calm grave expression 
of his face. Very likely he guessed what was passing 
through his companion's mind ; for from the little he had 
seen of Greorgie, he believed her to possess more common- 
sense than is given to the average woman, and he was 
certain she could show it in no better way than by totally 
ignoring this business, at all events in its present stage. 
Laurence saw plainly enough Mrs Hammond's intentions. 



EGREMONT PRIORY. 167 

There was not a point in her system of strategy which he 
did not comprehend ; and he also saw that Mitford was 
morally weak, and obviously nattered by her attentions. 
In the present stage of affairs, however, for Lady Mitford 
to show herself annoyed was the very worst policy she could 
adopt ; and while she kept silence Laurence guessed she 
was arguing the question within herself, and earnestly 
hoped she would come to the right decision. He knew she 
had done so when, just as they were nearing their destin- 
ation, she looked up with a bright smile and said, " I have 
been a very dull companion, I am afraid, Colonel Alsager ! 
but the truth is I was full of thought." 

" A bad thing to bring out to a picnic, Lady Mitford. I 
should advise you to discard it as speedily as possible." 

" I fully intend to do so, and hope every one else will 
follow your advice. By the way, I may say, ' Physician, 
heal thyself ; ' for you've been most sedate ever since we 
started."" 

" I was wondering," laughed Laurence, " among other 
things, what the groom seated behind us could think of us. 
He's young, I see, and may possibly therefore imagine that 
silence is a sign of good breeding." 

" In that case, in his opinion we must be perfect aristo- 
crats, for we've not exchanged a word. Ah, here comes the 
cavalcade ; how well Mrs Hammond looks ! — doesn't she ? 
and how perfectly she sits her horse ! " 

" Tes, she rides admirably, and — ah, I thought so ; she 
has just discovered we were looking at her, or she would 
not have done that." 

" That " was to put her horse at a bit of bank and hedge 
bordering the grass-meadow, on which she and her party 
were cantering. She cleared it admirably, and drew rein 
close by the phaeton. As her horse jumped, Mrs Ham- 
mond caught Laurence's eye, and her own lighted up with 
a saucy triumph ; the exercise had done her good, and she 
was in great spirits. 

" "Well, dear Lady Mitford, I hope you've enjoyed your 
drive ; no accident this time, I see. But Colonel Alsager 
is a good whip. — I've heard your praises sung often by men 
who really understand the subject, Colonel Alsager. They 



168 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

sav you have the very hand for a restive animal — light, but 
firm'." 

" They get away from me sometimes, though, Mrs Ham- 
mond," said Laurence, looking up. 

" Ah, that happens with every one," she replied ; " but you 
always conquer at last, don't you ? " 

" Always ; and when I get them in hand again, I make 
them remember their freaks, and pay for them." 

" You're quite right," said she carelessly. " Ah, here is 
Major Winton. I assure you, Lady Mitford, the Major is 
the most perfect escort ; full of talk and fun, he never 
suffers you to be dull for an instant. And there's the 
break arrived, and that energetic Captain Bligh managing 
everything as usual. What very large hampers ! And I 
declare there's Sir Charles arrived before any of us, and 
superintending the laying of the cloth in that romantic- 
looking old tower." 

Lady Mitford caught sight of her husband at the same 
time, and hurried off to him. She was full of penitence, 
and wanted to set herself right with him at once. 

" Ah, and there's Lady Mitford off at the mere sound of 
his name. Look at that, Colonel Alsager, and — will you 
have the kindness to help me to dismount, Colonel Alsager? 
— No, thank you, Major, I won't trouble yon ; the Colonel 
is already on the ground. There, Laurence Alsager," she 
whispered, as she sprang from the saddle, " that is what I 
pine for, — domestic love;" and she heaved a little sigh, and 
tapped the ground with the delicate little riding-boot, which 
the lifting of her habit had exposed. 

For an instant Laurence was taken off his guard, and 
said bitterly, " When you might have had it, you spurned 
it ; " then recovering himself, he added, "However, we have 
had that out once, and — " 

" And here is Major Wmton," said Mrs Hammond in her 
airiest manner. " Luncheon already, eh ? then you shall 
give me your arm, Major, for this turf-hill is awkward to 
climb, especially in a habit." 

Meanwhile Greorgie had hurried away to where her hus- 
band was standing watching the laying of the cloth in the 
oue room of the keep, by the old chatelaine and her grand- 



EGBEMONT l'KIORY. 1 G9 

daughter. Georgie made her way up to him, aud with the 
tears rising iu her eyes, said, " Oh, Charley, I'm so glad I 
have found you ; I wanted to speak to you." 

" Did you, little woman? " said he, looking down at her 
in great astonishment ; " what about ? Nothing left be- 
hind, is there ? " 

" No ; that is — at least — I don't know ; it was not about 
that I wanted to speak." 

" "What was it, then ? Nothing the matter with the 
ponies ? — not another accident, eh ? " 

" No, no ; I only wanted to say that I hoped you 
would not be annoyed at — at anything I did when we 
started from home to-day— about the way in which the 
party was divided, I mean." 

" Why, you silly little woman, of course not ; you had 
nothing to do with it. If Winton chose to make himself 
ridiculous, it wasn't your fault. There, come, dry your 
eyes, Georgie, and let's go and look after the people." 

So, then, he had not noticed her anger or her foolish 
speech at all. Georgie hardly knew whether to be pleased 
or vexed at the discovery. 

The indefatigable Captain Bligh had now brought his 
arrangements to a head, and all was ready for luncheon. A 
large fire burned in the great open fireplace of the old room, 
lighting up the grim old walls, and flickering through the 
narrow slips and embrasures, whence in old days the archers 
had done good service. Lady Mitford headed the table, 
with Lord Dollamore and Major Maxse, who had ridden 
over with some of his brother officers, on either side. Mrs 
Masters was delighted to find herself next to Colonel Al- 
sager ; Tom Charteris was placed opposite the largest piece 
of cold beef, and told to go on carving it until somebody 
stopped him ; Mrs Charteris was acting as a kind of female 
aide-de-camp to Captain Bligh ; and if Mrs Hammond found 
Major Winton, who was on one side of her, unusually 
talkative, she could make no such complaint of Sir Charles 
Mitford, who sat on the other side, and was unusually 
silent. 

The meal went off with great success. Everybody was 
hungry, and nearly everybody was good-tempered ; there 



170 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

was abundance of champagne, and the officers and the young 
ladies had a great deal of laughter; and then they set out 
to explore the ruins, and there was that charming story of 
the murdered lady, and the spot where she appeared was 
pointed out by the old housekeeper, who told the legend in 
a deliciously-funny manner ; and Tom Charteris hid him- 
self behind a buttress, and at its conclusion bounced out 
among them with a great roar, clanking a dog-chain which 
he had picked up. All the ladies screamed, and Ellen 
Tyrrell was so frightened that she nearly fainted, and had 
to be supported by Prank Somers, the officer who had 
ridden with her from Hedmoor ; and even when she re- 
covered she was so weak as to be compelled to walk very 
slowly, so that she and her companion were some distance 
behind the rest of the party. 

With this exception they all kept together ; and Greorgie 
had the satisfaction of engaging her husband's arm during 
the greater portion of their stay. "When the time came for 
their return, the only change made was, that Mrs Masters 
had manoeuvred so successfully as to induce Lady Mitford 
to change places with her, — Greorgie returning in the break, 
and Laurence driving the widow in the phaeton. But this 
time the equestrians all started together. Sir Charles did 
not tear away on Tambour Major ; for though still annoyed 
with Mrs Hammond, he had by this time got his temper 
under control. It was a trying time for Tambour Major, 
who hated being held back, aud pushed and jumped so as 
to be very disagreeable company at close quarters. He was 
very disagreeable indeed to Major Winton, who had eaten 
a large lunch and wanted to digest it quietly ; and equally 
disagreeable to Prank Somers and Ellen Tyrrell, who were 
engaged in a conversation which compelled them to keep 
their horses at a walking-pace. The only person who was 
really pleased was Mrs Hammond, who in Tambour Major's 
struggles and plunges saw her way to the end which she had 
all along intended to accomplish. 

" That's more show than business, I'm thinking, Sir 
Charles," said she, pointing with her whip to the horse as 
he gave a tremendous plunge. 



EGEEMONT PRIORY. 1 



T't 



" How do you mean ' show,' Mrs Hammond ? I only 
know it's all I can do to hold him steady." 

" Let him have his head, then ; he looks as if he would 
rush his fences, and had not the least notion of steady 
jumping." 

" You should have seen him this morning ; he — " 

"You took good care I should not, by running away 
from us." 

" He'd do just the same going home. I can take you 
the way I came, over some of the prettiest jumps you have 
ever seen," said Mitford, getting nettled about his horse. 
" Come, who'll follow ? " 

" I, for one," said Mrs Hammond ; but no one else 
spoke. 

" They only want a lead ; come, let us show them the way; " 
and as he spoke, Sir Charles turned his horse out of the 
high-road up a short sloping embankment on to a broad 
stretch of moorland, and with Mrs Hammond close by his 
side, was away at full gallop. The rest of the riding party 
looked after them, but did not attempt to follow. Major 
Winton, finding himself decidedly de trop, lit a cigar, and 
jogged lazily along by himself, while the others continued 
their conversation. 

Away go the big black horse and the dark iron-gray, side 
by side, flying over the purple moorland, Lady Jane holding 
her own well with her companion, let him tear and struggle 
as he may to shake her off. Now far away to the right 
looms dark the first obstacle, which Sir Charles points out 
with his whip, and at sight of which Mrs Hammond rings 
out a merry little laugh. As they approach, it developes 
itself as a double line of posts and rails, good stiff oak tim- 
ber, which must either be cleared or declined, through which 
there is no scrambling. Tambour Major sees it already, 
and rushes at it with a great snort of triumph, clearing it 
at a bound. Nor is the gray to be balked ; scarcely has he 
alighted, foam-flecked and trembling, in the field beyond, 
than Lady Jane is by his side. 

" That's number one," said Sir Charles ; " the next we 
shall find just at the end of — " but Mrs Hammond laid her 



i<-> RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

whip upon his arm. She had previously looked round and 
marked that they were far out of the range of observation 
by their late companions. 

" Quite enough," she said ; " I am satisfied with Tam- 
bour Major's performances, and own I did him grievous in- 
justice. Prom the manner in which he went at that, I am 
certain he could do anything. Besides," she added, bend- 
ing forward and patting Lady Jane's neck with her pretty 
dog-skin gauntlet, " I wanted to speak to you." 

" To me, Mrs Hammond ? " 

" Yes, to you — to you, alone. You are angry with me ? " 

" I — angry ? Ton my word I can assure you — I — " 

"Ah, don't deny it." Her voice dropped into its most 
musical and softest key. " Do you think I am not quick to 
read any change in your manner ? " 

" !N~o, but really — I haven't the least right to — " 

" The least right ! I thought you had promised to be 
my friend, — my firm, steadfast, constant friend. Ah, if you 
knew how I have longed for such a friend, — one in whom 
I could confide, and who would advise me ! ' 

She dropped her head on her breast as she said this, and 
the red rays of the dying sun touched the tight braids of 
her chestnut hair with gold. 

" Such a friend you will find in me," said Mitford ; " I 
meant it when I said it — I mean it now." 

" No," said Laura plaintively, " no ; you have other ties 
and other claims upon you, and it must not be. The world 
cannot understand such confidence as I would give and re- 
ceive ; it is too pure and too earnest for worldly compre- 
hension. — Already — but I won't speak of that." 

" Finish your sentence, please." 

" No, it was nothing, really nothing." 

" Then tell me, or I shall fancy it was something. Tell 
me." 

" How you compel me to obey you ! I was going to say 
■ — it's excessively silly of me ; very probably it was only my 
own foolish notion, but I'm so nervous and anxious about 
anything which concerns — my friends ; I thought that 
Lady Mitford seemed a little annoyed at your obvious in- 
tention of riding with me this morning." 



F.CilMCJIONT TRIORY. 17-5 

She stole a look at him under her hat to see how ho re- 
ceived tli is shot. 

''Who? Georgie ! annoyed? Oh, you must have heen 
mistaken. I should have noticed it in an instant it' that 
had heen the case." 

'■ You think so ! Well, then, very likely it was my mis- 
take. And I was so frightened, so fearful of causing any 
misunderstanding between you, so terrified at the thought 
of getting you into trouble, that I. at once called that odious 
Major "VVintou into my service, and have suffered him to 
bore me with his nialserics throughout the day." 

" Oh, that was the reason that you flirted with Wiuton, 
then ! I thought — " 

" Thought what ? Ah, I've caught you ! You were 
angry then ? " 

" Well, perhaps, — just a little." 

" I should have beeu deeply hurt if you had not been ; 
it would have showed that you had no real interest in 
me, and that would be dreadful. Just before I knew 
you, I held my life as utterly valueless, the daily repetition 
of a dull dreary task, — nothing to live for, nobody to care 
for. And this morning, when I thought you were really 
angry with me, that feeling came back so hopelessly — oh, so 
hopelessly ! I think I should die if I had no one to take 
interest in me now." 

She moved her hand towards the little pocket in her 
saddle-flap for her handkerchief, but he stopped it in its 
descent and held it in his own. 

" While I live," said he, " you will never have cause to 
make that complaint." 

And their eyes met, — hers soft aud dreamy, his fierce and 
eager. A delicious interchange of glances to the persons 
concerned, but perhaps not so pleasant to a looker-on. Ap- 
parently very displeasing to the only one then present — a 
tall slim woman, picking her way in a very cattish manner 
across the adjoining meadow ; who stopped on catching 
sight of the equestrians, frowned heavily as she watched 
them, and crouched under the shadow of the hedge until 
they had passed. 



174 



CHAPTER XVI. 



CHECK. 



The clay after the winter picnic Sir Charles Mitford sat in 
that little snuggery next his dressing-room, which had been 
so deftly fitted up for him by Captain Bligh, in the enjoy- 
ment of a quiet after-breakfast pipe. Breakfast was on the 
table at Bedmoor from nine to twelve. Each guest chose 
his own time for putting in an appearance ; rang for his or 
her special teapot, special relay of devilled kidney, ham, 
kipper, eggs, or bloater ; found his or her letters placed in 
close proximity to his or her plate ; breakfasted, and then 
went away to do exactly as he or she liked until luncheon, 
which was the real gathering hour of the day. On the 
morning in question everybody had been late, except Major 
Winton, who, deeply disgusted with the proceedings of the 
previous day, had routed up one of the tinder-keepers at 
daybreak, and trudged away to his usual shooting-ground. 
Sir Charles had turned out at ten, but had found no one in 
the breakfast-room save Captain Bligh, deep in the perusal 
of the newly-arrived copy of Bell's Life. So Sir Charles read 
his letters, which Avere of a prosaic business-like character, 
and ate his breakfast, which he rather enjoyed, and then 
went up to his room, taking the Times with him. Not, 
however, for the purpose of reading it — Charley seldom re- 
sorted to that means of passing time ; he never could 
understand what fellows saw to read in the papers ; for be- 
yond the police intelligence and the sporting-news and the 
advertisements of horses to be sold, all that enormous sheet 
of news, gathered with such care and expense, was utterly 
blank to him. To-day he did not even want to read hi3 
usual portion of the paper ; he took it up with him half- 
unconsciously ; he wanted to smoke and to think — to smoke 
a little and to think a great deal. 

So he sat before the cheerful fire in the cosey little room, 



CHECK. 1 75 

the firelight glancing on the red-flock paper, and illumin- 
ing the '■ Eacing Cracks " and the " Coaching Eecollec- 
tions ; " pictures which the Messrs Fores furnished for the 
delectation of the sporting men of those days, and which 
are never seen in these. They were better and healthier in 
tone than the studies of French females now so prevalent, 
and infinitely more manly and national. The smoke from 
his pipe curled round his head, and as he lay back in his 
chair and watched it floating in its blue vapour, his thoughts 
filled him with inexpressible pleasure. He was thinking 
over what had happened the day before, and to him the 
picnic was as nothing. He only remembered the ride 
home. Yes ; his thoughts were very, very pleasant ; his 
vanity had been flattered, his fur had been stroked the right 
way. This was his first experience of flirtation since his 
marriage ; and he stood higher than usual in his own opinion 
when he found that he had attracted the notice of — to say 
the least of it — a very pretty woman. Very pretty ; no 
doubt about that ! By Jove ! she looked perfection in that 
tight-fitting robe. What a splendid figure she had,^so 
round and plump, and yet so graceful ; and her general 
turn-out was so good — such natty gloves and jolly little 
white collars and cuffs, and such a neat riding-whip ! And 
that lovely chestnut hair, gathered into, that gleaming coil of 
braids under her chimney-pot hat ! How beautifully she 
rode too ! went at those posts and rails as calmly as though 
she had been cantering in the Bow. He watched her as 
the mare rose at them ; and but for a little tightening of 
the mouth, not a feature of her face was discomposed, while 
most women would have turned blue through sheer fright, 
even if they would have had pluck to face such a jump at 
all, which he doubted. 

It was uncommonly pleasant to think that such a woman 
was interested in him ; would look forward to his presence, 
would regret his absence, and would associate him with her 
thoughts and actions. "What an earnest, impulsive, sensi- 
tive creature she was ! She had seen in an instant what 
had annoyed him yesterday ! Not like G-eorgie — he felt a 
slight twinge of conscience as he thought of her — not like 
G-eorgie, who had supposed he was vexed at something she 



176 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



had said, poor child ! jN'o ; that other woman was really 
wonderful — so appreciative and intelligent. How cleverly 
she had befooled that hard-headed old Winton for the sake 
of keeping things square ! Winton was like a child in her 
hands ; and though he could not bear ladies' society, and 
was supposed to be never happy except when shooting or 
smoking, had cantered by her side and tried to make civil 
little speeches, and bowed and smiled like a fellow just 
fresh from Eton. And how cleverly she had managed that 
business about their getting away when she wanted to 
speak to him ! Poor little thing, how frightened she was too 
at the idea of his being angry, as though one could be angry 
with a creature like that ! And how pretty she looked 
when her eyes filled with tears and her voice trembled ! 
G-ad ! she must feel something stronger than interest in 
him for her to show all that. Yes, by Jove ! — there was 
no use in denying it to himself any longer, — this little 
woman was thoroughly fascinated. He recalled the events 
of that homeward ride — the talk, the looks, the long, long 
hand-clasp, the passionate manner in which, just before 
they reached the house, she had implored him to remember 
that she counted on him, and on him alone, for advice and 
aid in the troubles of her life. By the way what were the 
troubles of her life ? She had dwelt very much upon them 
generally, but had never thought it necessary to go into 
detail. She spoke frequently of being tied to an invalid 
husband, of having been intended originally for something 
better than a sick man's nurse ; but that could not prey 
upon her mind very much, as she was scarcely ever with 
her husband, or if it did, it was not a case in which any ad- 
vice or any aid of his would be of much use to her. JS"o ; 
the advice and aid, and the intimate friendship, were de- 
vices by which she was endeavouring to blind herself and 
him to the real state of the case, to the fact that she was 
deeply, madly in love with him, and that he — well, he — 
What was that ? a rustle of a dress in the passage outside, 
a low tap at the door. Can it be she ? 

The door opened, and a woman entered — not Mrs Ham- 
mond, but Miss Gillespie. Sir Charles Mitford's heart had 
beat high with expectation ; its palpitation continued when 



UMJliUK, 177 

he recognized his visitor, though from a different cause. 
He had risen, and remained standing before the fire ; but 
Miss Gillespie made herself comfortable in a velvet causeuse 
on the other side of the snug fireplace, and pointing to his 
chair, said : 

" You had better sit down again. I shall be some time 
here." 

As though involuntanly, Mitford re- seated himself. He 
had scarcely done so when she said : 

" Tou did not expect me ? You don't seem glad to see 
me?" 

" Are you surprised at that ? " he sneered. " I should 
be glad never to set eyes on you again." 

" Exactly ; as we used to say in the old days, ' them's my 
sentiments.' I reciprocate your cordial feelings entirely. 
And I can't conceive what adverse fate drove you to come 
with a pack of swaggering, sporting, vulgar people, into a 
part of the country where I happened to be quietly and 
comfortably settled ; for, as I pointed out to you at our last 
interview, I was the original settler, and it is you who have 
intruded yourself into my territory." 

"You did not come here to repeat that, I suppose? " 

"Of course not ; and that's exactly a point I want to im- 
press upon you — that I never repeat. I hint, I suggest, I 
command, or I warn — once ; after that I act." 

" You act now, you're always acting, you perpetually 
fancy yourself on the boards. But it does not amuse me, 
nor suit me either, and I won't have it. What did you 
come here for ? " 

" Not to amuse you, Sir Charles Mitford, you may be 
certain, nor to be amused myself; for a heavier specimen of 
our landed gentry than yourself is not, I should hope for 
the credit of the country, to be found. Yoii were never 
much fun ; and it was only your good looks, and a certain 
soft manner that you had, that made you get on at all in 
our camaraderie. No ; I came here on business." 

" On business ! Ah, it's not very difficult to imagine what 
kind of business. You want money, of course, like the rest 
of them." 

" I want money, and come to you for it ! No, Charles 

12 



178 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



Mitford; you ought to know me better than that. You 
ought to know that if I were starving, I would steal a loaf 
from a child, or rob a church, rather than take, much more 
ask for, a single penny from you. Like the rest of them, 
did you say ? So they have found you out and begun to 
bleed you ! — the pitiful curs ! " 

" "Well, what do you want, then ? My time's precious." 

" It is indeed, my friend ; if you did but know all, you'd 
find it very precious indeed. But never mind that ; now for 
my business. I want you to do something." 

" And that is—" 

" To give up making love to Mrs Hammond. Now, be 
quiet ; don't put yourself in a rage, and don't try those up- 
lifted eyebrows, and that general expression of injured 
astonishment, on me, because it won't do. I was not born 
last week, and my capacity for gauging such matters is by 
no means small. Besides, I happened yesterday to be 
taking my walks abroad in a meadow not far from the 
western lodge of Bedmoor Park, the seat of Sir Charles 
Mitford, Bart., and I happened to witness an interview of a 
very tender and touching kind, which took place between a 
lady and a gentleman both on horseback. I imagined 
something of the kind was going on. I saw something 
when you were leaving the house that night at Torquay 
which would have surprised any one who had not learned 
as much of Mrs Hammond as I had during the time I had 
been with her. But since we have been here my suspicions 
have been confirmed, and yesterday's proceedings left no 
doubt upon my mind. So I determined to speak to you at 
once, and to tell you that this must not and shall not be ! " 

Mitford's face grew very dark as he said : 

" And suppose I were to ask you how the flirtation 
which you allege exists between me and — and the lady you 
have named, — which I utterly and entirely deny, — suppose 
I were to ask how this flirtation affects you, and, in short, 
what the devil business it is of yours ? " 

" How it affects me ? Why — no, but that's too prepos- 
terous. Not even you, with all your vanity, could possibly 
imagine that I have in my own mind consented to forget 
the past, that I have buried the hatchet, that I have 



CHECK. 179 

returned to my premier amour, and am consequently jealous 
of your attentions to Mrs Hammond." 

" I don't suppose that. But I can't see what other mo- 
tive you can possibly have." 

" You can't, and you never shall. I don't choose to tell 
you ; perhaps I have taken compassion on your wife, who is 
very pretty — of her style — and seems very good and all 
that, and very fond of you, poor silly thing ! and I don't 
choose her to be tormented by you. Perhaps I want that 
poor wretched invalid to die in peace, and not to have his 
life suddenly snuffed out by the scandal which is sure 
to arise if this goes on. Perhaps — but no matter ! I don't 
intend to give my reasons, and I've told you what I want." 

" And suppose I tell you — as I do tell you — I won't do 
what you want, and I defy you ! What then ? " 

" Then I will compel you." 

" "Will you ? Do you think I don't know the screw which 
you would put on me ? Tou'd proclaim all about my 
former life, my connection with that rascally crew, of whom 
you were one — " 

" Who brought me into it ? " 

" No matter ; — of whom you were one ! Tou'd rake up 
that story of the bill with my uncle's name to it. Well, 
suppose you did. What then ? It would be news to no- 
body here — they all know of it." 

" No, they don't all know of it. Lord Dollamore does, 
and so does that good-looking man with the beard, Colonel 
Alsager, and perhaps Captain Bligh. But I doubt if one of 
the others ever heard of it : these things blow over, and are 
so soon forgotten. And it would be very awkward to have 
the story revived here. Why, the county families who have 
called, and are inclined to be civil — I heard you boasting of 
it the other day — would drop you a like red-hot coal. The 
officers quartered in the barracks would cut you dead ; the 
out-going regiment would tell the story to the in-coming 
regiment ; you would never get a soul over here to dinner 
or to stop with you, and you would be bored to death. 
That's not a pleasant look-out, is it ? " 

He sat doggedly silent until she spoke again. 

" But that is not nearly all. I have it in iny power to 



180 SUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

injure your position as well as your reputation ; to compel 
you to change that pretty velvet lounging-coat for a suit of 
hodden gray, that meerschaum-bowl for a lump of oakum, 
this very cheery room for — But there's no need to dilate on 
the difference : you'll do what I ask ? " 

"And suppose I were to deny all your story." 

" Ah, now you're descending to mere childishness. How 
could you deny what all the men I have mentioned know 
thoroughly well ? They are content to forget all about it 
now, and to receive you as a reclaimed man ; but if they 
were asked as men of honour whether or not there had been 
such a scandal, of course they would tell the truth. Come, 
you'll do what I ask ? " 

She had won the day ; there was no doubt about that. 
Any bystander, had one been there, could have told it in a 
moment ; could have read it in his sullen dogged look of 
defeat, in her bright airy glance of triumph. 

" You'll do what I ask ? " 

" You have me in your hands," he said in a low voice. 

" I knew you would see it in the right light," she said, 
rising. " You see, after all, it's very little to give up ; the 
flirtation is only just commencing, so that even you, with 
your keen susceptibility, cannot be hard hit yet. And you 
have such a very nice wife, and it will be altogether so 
much better for you now you are range, as they say. You'll 
have to go to the village-church regularly when you're 
down here, and to become a magistrate, and to go through 
all sorts of other respectabilities with which this style of 
thing would not fit at all. Now, good-bye ; " and she 
turned to go. 

" Stay ! " he called out ; " when may I expect a repetition 
of this threat for some new demand ? " 

" That rests entirely with yourself. As I have said from 
the first, I did not seek you ; you intruded yourself into my 
circle. I like my present mode of life — for the present— 
and don't want to change it. Keep clear of me, and we 
shall never clash. Again, good-bye." 

She made a pretty little bow and, undulating all over, left 
the room as quietly as she had entered it. 

"When she had closed the door Mitford rose from hia 



COUNTERCHECK. 181 

chair with a long sigh of relief, loosened his cravat, and 
shook his fist. 

' : Yours to-day, my lady — yours to-day ; but my chance 
will come, and when it does, look out for yourself." 



CHAPTER XVII. 

COUNTERCHECK. 

Mr Effingham began to think that the position of affairs 
was growing serious. A month had elapsed since his inter- 
view with old Mr Lyons at the Net of Lemons, and he had 
not gained one scrap of information as to the whereabouts 
of the holder of the forged bill, which was to be held in 
terrorem over Sir Charles Mitford for money-extracting 
purposes, and which was finally to be given up for an enor- 
mous round sum. Not a single scrap ; and worse than all, 
he had so devoted himself to this one scent, that his other 
chances of money-getting were falling into disuse. Not 
that there Avas much to be done elsewhere ; it was the off- 
racing season, so that his trade of tipster and tout, with oc- 
casional sallies into the arena of welching, could not have 
been turned to very profitable purpose. The Bank author- 
ities had lately been terribly wideawake ; several packets 
of slippery greasy half-crowns, and many rolls of soft sleezy 
bank-notes, lay hid in their manufacturer's and engraver's 
workshops, waiting a better time for their circulation. 
There had been some notable burglaries both in town and 
country. Gentlemen with blackened faces who wore smock- 
frocks over their ordinary clothes had done some very 
creditable work in out-of-the-way mansions and London 
houses whose owners were entertaining company in the 
country, and the melting-pots of old Mr Lyons and others 
of his fraternity were rarely off the fire. But this branch 
of trade was entirely out of Mr Effingham's line. "He's a 
good un at passing a half-bull or at spinning a flash fiver. 
There's a air about him that goes down uncommon. " He's 
fust-rate for that, is D'Ossay Butler ; but as rank a little 



182 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

cur as ever waddled. "When he thinks traps is on, he's off; 
and as to my cracksman's business, or anything where pluck's 
wanted, Lor' bless you, you might as well have a girl 
in highstrikes as D'Ossay." That was what his companions 
said of him, and it was pretty nearly true. Where a little 
swaggering bantam-cock demeanour was of use, D'Ossay 
succeeded ; but where anything like physical courage or 
physical force was required, he was no good at all. 

"When the lion is on short commons, the jackal is 
generally in a very bad way. If Mr D'Ossay Butler was 
hard up, the condition of tall-hatted Mr Griffiths was 
necessarily frightful. That worthy member of society was 
financially at the lowest ebb, and had resorted to a trade 
which he reserved for the depths of despair, a mild card- 
sharping — a "three, two, and vun" game, in which it was 
an impossibility for the bystander to point out the exact 
position of the king — at low public-houses. During all his 
wanderings, however, he kept his eyes open to the neces- 
sity of obeying his instructions from D'Ossay Butler, to 
the necessity of discovering the whereabouts of Lizzy 
Ponsford, the holder of the bill. There was no slum that 
he visited ; no public-house, where he first propitiated the 
landlord by the purchase of half-a-pint of ale, and then 
proceeded to suggest to the notice of the two or three 
sawney -looking men at the bar a " curous little game he 
had there, at which 'atfuls of money had been von, and 
which was the favourite recreation of the horficers of the 
Queen's Life-Guards at the Windsor Barracks, where he'd 
'ad the pleasure of introducin' it 'imself ; " no pedestrian 
ground, no penny-gaff, where he did not get into conversa- 
tion with somebody connected with the premises, and try to 
worm out that all-important secret. But all was of no avail. 
Many of the persons he spoke to knew or had heard of 
Tony Butler, and paid many handsome compliments to the 
deceased — " a vide-avake vun and no mistake," " a feller as 
vould take your coat off your back on to his own," &c. ; 
but very few had known Lizzie Ponsford, and those had not 
seen or heard of her for a considerable time. 

So Mr Griffiths began to keep clear of Mr Effingham. 
There was nothing to be got from his employer but abuse, 



COUNTERCHECK. 183 

and that was an article of which Mr Griffiths perhaps had 
a surfeit, especially after he had picked up a few stray 
eighteenpences from the frequenters of the Pig and Whistle, 
at the noble game of the " three, two, and vun." But one 
night, finding himself in the neighbourhood of the Strand, 
and having had rather a successful evening, — he had won 
fifteen shillings from a sailor, at a public-house in Thames 
Street ; a sailor who paid him rigidly, and then cursed 
him for an adjective swab and kicked him into the street, — 
Mr Griffiths thought he would take a little refreshment at 
Johnson's. On presenting the crown of his hat within the 
swing-doors, that article was immediately recognized by 
Mr Effingham, seated moodily in the nearest box, and its 
owner hailed in the nearest approach to a voice of thunder 
which that small gentleman could accomplish. 

" Come in; I see you!" called out the little man. " I've 
been wondering what had become of you all this time. I 
thought you'd gone to stay with some swell in the country 
for the hunting-season. I was goin' to ask if they had got 
your address at the Morning-Post office, that I might write 
you a line and see if you could find it convenient to lend 
me a trifle." 

" Tou must be in luck to have such spirits, D'Ossay, — 
you must," said Mr Griffiths sententiously. " Out of collar 
and out at elbows — that's what I've been out of. Look at 
my coat," pointing to his arms ; " shining like bees-wax. 
Look at my crabshells," pointing to his boots; "as leaky as 
an old punt, reg'larly wore down to the sewin', and all 
through elberin' and cadgin' my way into every crib where 
I thought there was a chance of my comin' at what we 
wanted to know." 

" And what good have you done with all that tremendu- 
ous exertion ?" 

" No good, — not a scrap. I suppose you've been at the 
same game ? How have you got on ? " 

" About the same as you have. Just as 'ealthy my look- 
out is." 

" Well, I'll tell you what I intend to do. I've worked 
high and low, here and there, like a blessed black slave, to 
find out where this gal is, and I've had no luck no more 



184 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



than you have. And I intend to cut it. I'm sick of all 
this dodgm' and divin', and askin' everybody after some- 
body that nobody knows. I intend to cut it. That's what 
I intend ! " 

" And let it go altogether, after all the trouble we've 
had ; after — Not such a flat, Griffiths ; don't you fear. 
Look here, my boy," said Mr Butler, putting his hand into 
his waistcoat-pocket, and producing therefrom two sove- 
reigns ; " do you see that couple of quid ? That, with a 
shilling and a fourpenny bit, is all that remains to your 
friend D'Ossay of the current coin of this realm — the real 
business, I mean, and no fakement. But these two simple 
skivs shall be turned into fifty or a hundred before the end 
of the week. And to show you that I'm not boasting, I'll 
stand a drink. Here, waiter ! — brandy hot, two ! " 

Mr Griffiths gazed in double admiration at his friend's 
generosity and pluck ; but low as he was, he really admired 
the latter, from which he might possibly derive ultimate 
benefit, more than the former, from which he was about to 
receive immediate advantage. After the first sip of his 
grog he said — 

" And how's it coming off ? " 

" I don't mind telling you," said D'Ossay " There's 
nothing to hide — why should there be ? I'm going to try 
it on again with our friend the Bart." 

" Without the bill ? " 

" Of course, without the bill, considering that neither you 
nor I have been able to get hold of it. But didn't I raise 
a fiftier out of him without the bill before, and why shouldn't 
I do that, or double that, now ? " 

"Ah, why indeed? " said Mr Grriffiths, who always coin- 
cided when he did not know what else to do, and there was 
nothing to lose by so doing. 

" You see, I thought he might down upon me with the 
extortion dodge, and hand me over to a bobby. But 
there's no bobbies where he is now ; he couldn't ring the 
bell and send out that sleek-looking vally, and have me in 
Vine Street in a brace of shakes. He's down in the country 
ever so far away. I called at Eaton Place to-day, and they 
gave me his address." 



COUNTERCHECK. 185 

" And how do you mean to get at hirn? Not by writin'? 
Don't trust your fist on paper." 

" Teach your grandmother, Griffiths ! How do I mean 
to get at him ? Why, by paying one of those yellow-boys 
to a booking-clerk at 6.30 to-morrow morning, and going 
down by the Great- Western parliamentary to Torquay, 
which is close by the swell's place." 

" And then ? '" 

'• Then I shall put up at some quiet crib, and go over the 
next morning and take him on the bounce — just as I did 
before." 

" And suppose he shows fight and won't part ? " 

'■ Then I must send up a line to you, and you must get 
up a friendly lead, or something of that kind, and work me 
back to town." 

" And you'll chance all that ? " 

" I'd chance a mile more than that for such stakes, where 
there's no knockin' about or head-punchin' business, Grif- 
fiths. I've not got what they call animal courage, which 
means I don't like being hurt. Some people do, I suppose, 
and they have animal courage. Now, let's settle where I'm 
to write to you, and all the rest of the business." 

Mr Effingham spoke thus cheerily, and seemed thorough- 
ly determined on his undertaking and confident of his suc- 
cess, as he sat, late at night, in a warm brilliantly-lit tavern- 
parlour, with the odours of tobacco and hot spirituous 
drinks fragrant to him floating pleasantly about. He took 
quite another view of the subject when he turned out be- 
tween five and six the next morning into a bald blank 
street, swept by torrents of rain, in which no one was visible 
but the policeman and the few vagrants huddling round the 
early-breakfast stall at the corner. Mr Effingham wrapped 
himself up as best he might in his fifteen-shilling pea-jacket, 
and under cover of a big gingham umbrella, borrowed from 
his landlady, made the best fight he could against the wind 
and the rain, which, however, had so far the best of it that he 
was tolerably damp by the time he reached the Paddington 
station. 

He took his ticket, and seated himself on the shelf in one 



186 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

of those wooden boxes which benevolent railway directors 
set aside for the conveyance of parliamentarians. His com- 
panions were two navvies, who had not slept off the effects 
of last night's drunkenness, and whose language made Mr 
Effingham — albeit not unused to listening to " tall talk " — 
shrink with disgust ; an old woman with steaming black 
garments, and an umbrella which would not stand up in any 
corner and would not lie under the seat, and got itself called 
most opprobrious names for its persistence in leaning against 
the nearest navvy ; and a young woman with a swollen face 
tied up in a check cotton handkerchief. Mr Effingham 
made an effort to let the very small window on his side 
down, but the young woman with the toothache had it up 
in an instant ; while the aperture on the other side 
was constantly stuffed with the body of one or other of the 
drunken navvies, who fought for the privilege of leaning 
half out of the carriage, and running the chance of being 
knocked to pieces against arches and tunnel-walls. So the 
navvies fought and swore, and the old woman sniffed and 
took little snatches of sleep, waking with a prolonged snort 
and start ; and the young woman moaned and rubbed her 
face, until Mr Effingham was nearly mad. Circumstances 
were almost too much for him ; he grew first desponding, 
and then desperate. He wished he had never started on 
his journey ; he would get out at the next station at which 
the train stopped (and as the parliamentary duly stopped 
at every station, he would not have had to wait long) ; he 
would go back to London. No, he would not do that ; he 
had boasted about his intention to Griffiths, and would lose 
all authority over that satellite if he did not show at least 
the semblance of a fulfilment of his purpose. He would get 
out at the next station, and wait at a public-house in the 
village until the next day, and then go back and tell Griffiths 
he had seen Sir Charles Mitford, and had found it impos- 
sible to get any money out of him. And then, just as the 
whistle shrieked out and the engine reduced its particularly 
slow pace to a slower still, preparatory to pulling up, Mr 
Effingham's hands strayed into his waistcoat-pocket, where 
he found only a half-sovereign and a few shillings remain- 
ing — the extent of his earthly possessions. That decided 



COUNTERCHECK. 187 

him ; he would go on, come what might ! Such a, state of 
impecuniosity nerved him to anything ; and — the absence 
of policemen in rural districts still pleasantly remembered 
— he determined upon pursuing his original idea and of 
continuing his journey. 

The next day Sir Charles Mitford, who had been com- 
pelled to devote the morning to dry details of business con- 
nected with his estate — details to which he listened con- 
scientiously, over which he shook his head visibly, and 
which he did not in the least understand — had got rid of 
the man of business from the library about noon, and was 
just thinking he would go and see what Mrs Hammond was 
doing, when Banks entered, and closing the door after him 
in a secret and mysterious manner, announced " That party, 
sir." 

" What ' party,' Banks ? " 

" The party that called in Heaton Place, Sir Charles, 
and ast to see you, and you wouldn't see at first, but did 
afterwards, Sir Charles." 

" I don't know yet whom you mean, Banks." 

" The naval party, Sir Charles ; though lookin' more like 
after the coats and humbrellas in the 'all. The naval party 
as served with you on board some ship, Sir Charles." 

''■ Oh," said Mitford hurriedly, " I recollect now ; one of 
— one of my sailors from my old yacht — yes, yes, of course. 
You can show him into my own room, Banks. I'll go up 
there at once." 

" ' Sailor,' " said Mr Banks to himself as he walked down 
the passage, " ' from my hold yacht,' did he say ? Why, if 
what they say at the Club is right, the honly naval concern 
which he knew of before comin' in for the title was the 
Fleet Pris'n ! This is a queer start about this feller, this 
is. I wonder why he wants to see Mitford, and why Mit- 
ford can't refuse hisself to him ? — This way, young man." 
And he beckoned haughtily to Mr Effingham, and preceded 
him to his master's room. Sir Charles had already arrived 
there, and was seated in his large arm-chair when the visitor 
was shown in. 

Ah, what a different visitor from the Mr Effingham who 
called in Eaton Place ! Then full of vulgar confidence and 



188 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

brazen audacity ; now, flinching, slouching, cowardly. His 
dress bedraggled from the previous day's wretched journey, 
his manner downcast from the preconceived notion of failure 
in his mission, and the impossibility of enforcing his previous 
demands. A very wretched specimen of humanity was Mr 
Effingham as he stood before Sir Charles Mitford, shifting 
his limp hat from hand to hand, and waiting to be asked to 
sit down. 

When Banks had retired and closed the door, Sir Charles 
looked up quietly and steadily at his visitor, and said, 
" Well, Mr- — I forget your name — you've broken your 
promise, as I expected, and come to try and extort money 
from me again ! " 

" Extort, Sir Charles ! that's not the word, sir ; I — " 

" That is the word, sir ! Sheer barefaced robbery and ex- 
tortion — that's what has brought you down here ; deny it 
if you can ! Have you come to ask me for money, or have 
you not? " 

" Well, Sir Charles, I— that is—" 

" No shuffling, sir ! no prevarication ! Have you or 
not?" 

" Well, suppose I have ? " 

" Suppose you have ! And suppose that I, as a justice 
of the peace and magistrate for the county, make out 
a warrant for your committal to prison as a rogue 
and vagabond ? We're a long way from London, and 
justice's law is to be had down in these parts. Besides, 
how could you appeal? to whom could you refer? I've 
made a point of having a few inquiries made about you 
since you last did me the honour of a call, and I find that 
if not a regular gaol-bird, you could at all events be recog- 
nized by the police as a swindler and an utterer of base coin. 
What do you think of that Mr— Butler ? " 

What did he think of it ? The realization of his worst 
fears, the overthrow of his strongest hopes ! He ought to 
have relied on the presentiment which had told him that the 
man would take this course, though not so promptly or so 
strongly. He thought he would try one more bit of bounce, 
and he shook himself together and put as much impudence 
as he could command into his look as he said, 



COUNTERCHECK. 189 

"How do you know I've not got that forged bill in my 
pocket ? " 

'• By your face, sir ! I can see that as plainly as if it 
were written there in big black letters ! Ah, I knew I 
■was right ! Now, what have you got to say to this, Mr 
Butler ? " 

Mr Effingham fairly collapsed. " Nothing, Sir Charles," 
he stammered. " I've nothing to say — only have mercy, 
Sir Charles ! I have not brought the bill with me, but I 
know where it is, and could lay my hand on it at any time, 
Sir Chaides. And as to what you said about committing 
me as a rogue and a vagabond, O Lord ! don't do it, Sir 
Charles ! pray don't ! I'm a poor miserable devil without 
a rap ; but if you'll oidy let me go, I'll find my way back to 
town, and never intrude on you again, Sir Charles; I — " 

All this time Mr Effingham had been backing, and Avith 
his hand behind him feeling for the handle of the door. 
Having secured it, he was about to vanish, when Sir Charles 
called out to him " Stop ! " and he stopped at once, 

" Tou say you're hard-up, Mr Butler ? " 

" I'm positively stumped, Sir Charles." 

' ; Then you'd be glad to earn a little money ? " 

" If I could do so — " Mr Effingham was about to say 
" honestly," but he thought this would be a little too glar- 
ing, so he finished his sentence by substituting " without 
incurring any danger, I should be delighted." 

" There would not be the slightest danger — " 

" By danger I mean, punching of heads and that kind of 
thing." 

' : Precisely ; there would be nothing of that. The only 
person with whom you would be brought into contact would 
be a woman." 

Mr Effingham's barometrical mercury rose as quickly as it 
fell. " A woman ! " he said, as he settled his limp collar and 
gave a pull at his dirty wrist-bands, — "a woman, Sir 
Charles ! Oh, then, I've no fear." 

" Wait and hear what you're required to do, sir, before 
you give an opinion. The person to whom I allude is at 
the present moment in this house. She is therefore, al- 
though not invited by me, to a certain extent my guest, and 



190 EUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

it would be impossible for me to appear in the matter. You 
comprehend me ? " 

" Perfectly." 

" Especially as sbe is to be got rid of at once and for 
ever. When I say ' got rid of,' I don't mean it in the 
slang phrase of the penny romances — I don't mean that the 
woman is to be killed ; but simply that she is to be told 
that she must remain here no longer, and the danger of 
doing so must be strongly pointed out to her." 

" Exactly, je twig ! Now will you please to tell me the 
name of this good lady, and what reason I'm to give for in- 
sisting on her leaving such a very swell and pleasant crib as 
this appears to be ? " 

" She is called here Miss Q-illespie," said Sir Charles ; 
" but you will have heard of her under a very different name 
— Lizzie Ponsford." 

" What ! " exclaimed Mr Effingham, leaping from his 
chair ; " Lizzie Ponsford here ! She whom I've been — " 

" Well, sir ? " asked Sir Charles in astonishment. 

" Whom I've been hearing so much about ! " said Mr 
Effingham, recovering himself. " Lizzie Ponsford here ! " 
he continued, going off again. " Well, that is arum start ! " 

" Be good enough to attend to me, sir. She is here, and 
she is in my way. Her presence worries me, bringing back 
all sorts of hideous associations that I thought I had got 
rid of, and never want to have revived. Tou must see her, 
talk to her, and get her to go at once ; once gone, I could 
so arrange matters as to leave little chance of her return- 
ing." 

" I see ! " said Mr Effingham. " Now the question is, 
how to work her out of this. What Avould be the best way 
to frighten her and get her under your thumb ? " 

" What is your notion on that point ? " 

" I scarcely know yet ! It will want a little thinking 
over, but I've no doubt I shall be able to hit upon some- 
thing. Is she pretty comfortable where she is — likely not 
to give it up without a struggle ? " 

" Tou may take your oath she will not move unless com- 
pelled — it is for you to find the something that will compel 



COUNTERCHECK. 191 

" Exactly. "Well, I don't think that there Tvill be much 
difficulty about that — at least," said he, correcting himself, 
for he feared that comparative facility might lessen the re- 
ward — " at least, not much difficulty for a man whose head's 
screwed on the right way. Now about the payment? " 

Sir Charles opened a drawer in his desk, and from a 
little rouleau of gold counted out ten sovereigns. The 
chink of the money sounded deliciously in Mr Effingham's 
hungry ears. 

" I will give you these ten sovereigns now," said Sir 
Charles ; " and if you succeed in carrying out all I have 
told you, I will give you fifty more." 

" "Will you ? Well, I always say what I think, and I say 
that's liberal. Now look here ! Very likely I shan't see 
you again ; perhaps I shall have to step it with her, in 
order to be sure she's safe off, and not dodging, or likely to 
walk back again. So when you find she's really gone, just 
you send a cheque for the fifty, made payable to bearer, 
mind, and not crossed, to this address ; " and bending down 
over the table he took a pen and scrap of paper and wrote : 
Mr Effingham, Mr Johnson's, The Brown Bear, Shake- 
speare Street, Strand, London. " Will you do that ? " 

" I will." 

" Having said so as an honourable gent, I know you'll 
keep your word. Now how am I to see her ? " 

" She walks out every day at three o'clock with her 
pupil — " 

" Her pupil ! Lizzie Ponsford's pupil ! My eye ! " 

"With her pupil," repeated Sir Charles sternly, "in the 
chestnut avenue leading from the lodge-gate. A tall woman 
with very large eyes, and crisp wavy hair over her fore- 
head ; a peculiar-looking Avoman — you couldn't mistake 
her." 

" All right ! As I go out of the lodge-gate now, I'll just 
say a few words to the old lady that keeps it, that she may 
know me again — don't you see ? — and not be surprised at 
my coming in and out. And now, as I shall probably have 
to hang about here for two or three days, where can I put 
up?" 

" You mustn't remain here in the house — " 



192 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



" Lor' bless you, that would never do ! isn't there a 
public near ? " 

" There is the Mitford Arms, within a quarter of a mile 
of the lodge." 

" I saw it ; the carricr's-cart which brought me over from 
Torquay stopped there. That'll do. I'll be a littery gent 
gettin' up information about the old county families, or an 
artist sketchin' — that'll do. I\ r ow give me a week clear: if 
nothing's done by then, you'll have spent ten pound very 
badly, and I shall have lost my time. But if within that 
time — and it might be to-morrow or any day — you find 
she's clean gone, you've got the address, and you'll send the 
cheque to it ? " 

" You may rely on me." 

" I do thoroughly Now how am I to get out ? It 
wouldn't do for you to be seen with me — my togs, though 
just the sort of thing for the littery gent, ain't very swell." 
" You can go down this staircase," said Sir Charles, lead- 
ing him to a landing ; " it guides on to the garden, take 
the first to the right, and you'll come at last to the avenue." 
Mr Effingham put his finger to the limp brim of his hat 
and departed. 

But when he arrived in the chestnut avenue, and had 
looked carefully round, and found that he was out of sight 
of any one in the house, and that there was no one near 
enough to observe his conduct, he rubbed his hands together, 
and almost cut a caper in the air with delight. 

" To think of it ! " he said. " There never, never was 
such luck ! D'Ossay, my boy, you've got the trick of it 
somehow. 'What will Griffiths say now ? To think that 
I've been hunting for this woman all this time, and that 
she's now placed in my hands — and by this very swell 
too ! Two birds with one stone now. Oh, there's a much 
bigger game than the Bart.'s cheque for fifty ! But it'll 
take a deal of thinking over and planning ; and if there's 
any one to do that, it's you, D'Ossay, my boy, and no one 
else ! " 



193 



CHAPTEE XVIII. 

IN THE DRAWING-ROOM. 

"What was Laurence Alsager doing at Redmoor ? He was 
beginning to ask himself that question very frequently. And 
that question led to another — why had he come down there 
at all ? He had " done " country-houses and their amuse- 
ments and had tired of them years before ; he had not the 
slightest liking for any of the guests ; he had a vague dislike 
of the host. Why, then, had he come ? He was a man 
■who rarely tried to deceive himself; and when he put this 
question point-blank to himself the answer was, Why ? 
Why, because you take a certain interest in Lady Mitford 
— no, I allow that perfectly; nothing dishonourable, nothing 
which at present could even be described as a love-passion ; 
but a certain interest. You think from all you have seen 
that she is not merely very charming in her innocence and 
simplicity, but really good ; and you expect from certain 
signs which you detect, and with the nature of which you 
are familiar, that she will have to pass through a very 
perilous ordeal. It is obvious to you that in society, as it 
is now constituted, a woman of Lady Mitford's personal at- 
tractions and position must incur a very great deal of 
temptation. This, of course, would be to a great extent 
avoided if she were secure in the affections and certain of 
the attentions of her husband ; but in the present instance 
you are constrained to admit, contrary to the opinion which 
you once publicly expressed, that Sir Charles Mitford is a 
weak, silly, vain person, who has fallen a victim to the wiles 
of a thoroughly heartless coquette, and who appears to be 
going from bad to worse as rapidly as possible. So that 
your certain interest has brought you down here to watch 
over the ladv. Quixotic and ultra-romantic, is it not ? You 
do not mean it to be so, I know— I give you full credit for 
that ; but still that is the designation it would probably 



194 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



receive from any of your friends. The truth is, that this — 
I was almost going to call it parental, but we will say fra- 
ternal — this fraternal regard for a very handsome woman is 
a novelty to you ; and hence your enjoyment of it. I said 
expressly a very handsome woman, because I don't believe 
that the fraternal sentiment could possibly blossom for an 
ugly one. Beware of it, my friend, if you please ! it's the 
trickiest, most treacherous elf, this fraternal friendship, that 
exists ; it goes on for a certain period perfectly steadily and 
properly, and then one morning you find it has deserted 
you, and left in its place a hot naming riotous passion that 
scorches you into tinder, makes you miserable, takes away 
your appetite, and, in fact, possesses all the qualities which, 
at one time, you knew so well. 

Such was the result of Laurence Alsager's self-examina- 
tion, and he fully admitted its truth. It was the interest 
which he took in Lady Mitford that had induced him to 
visit Redmoor ; it was the same feeling which kept him 
lingering there. Then the interest must have increased ; 
for the necessity for his self-imposed task of protection and 
supervision had certainly diminished. The actual fact which 
had decided his coming was the announcement that Lord 
Dollamore was to be among the guests. He had always 
had his own opinion of Lord Dollamore's morality ; and the 
way in which that nobleman had spoken of Lady Mitford 
in the smoking-room of the Maecenas had jarred horribly on 
Alsager's nerves. There was something too in Laura 
Hammond's look and in the tone of her voice when she 
spoke of the probability of Dollamore's being left constantly 
with the ladies, at which Laurence had taken alarm. But 
Lord Dollamore seemed to be perfectly innocuous. Lau- 
rence had watched him narrowly from the first, and, as in" 
the case of the drive to Egremont Priory, he seemed rather 
to avoid than to seek opportunities of being in Lady Mit- 
ford's company en tete-a-tete, and, judging from that and 
one or two other instances, was apparently desirous of 
keeping in the background, and of pushing Laurence for- 
ward. Could he — ? No ; he was a man utterly without 
principle where women are concerned ; but he would never 
&ttemp£ such a game as that, more particularly if he, Lau- 



IN THE DKA WING-ROOM. 1«)5 

rence Alsager, were involved in it. Certainly Sir Charles 
was going to too bad more rapidly than Alsager had antici- 
pated ; but then it was to be said for him that he clearly had 
fallen into able hands. There had been few such adepts in 
the art of flirtation in Europe as Laura Molyneux ; and she 
seemed to have become even more fertile in resources and 
skilful in their development since her marriage. Anything 
like the manner in which she had flirted with Mitford 
during the first few days of her visit to Bedmoor, Laurence, 
in all his experience, had never seen ; and he thought at 
the time of the Egremont Priory expedition that things 
were coming rapidly to an end. Lady Mitford had evi- 
dently noticed something that day, some tendresse between 
her husband and Mrs Hammond, which had annoyed her 
very much ; so much that she had almost called her friends' 
attention to her disgust. But the sweetness of her dispo- 
sition had come to the rescue. Laurence knew, as well as 
if he had been able to read her thoughts, all that had passed 
in her mind during that drive in the pony-phaeton ; he saw 
how she had reasoned with herself, and how she had finally 
determined that she had been hasty, inconsiderate, and in 
the wrong. He had seen her, immediately on alighting, 
slip away to join her husband ; and he could fully under- 
stand that she had made silent atonement for what she 
imagined to be an outburst of groundless jealousy. 

An extraordinary change had come over Mitford within 
the last few days. Before the picnic, and at the picnic, he 
had been enthralled, entete, eagerly waiting for Mrs Ham- 
mond's every look, every word, and scarcely able to behave 
with decency to anybody else. Since then he had acted 
quite differently. Had his conscience smitten him for neg- 
lecting his wife ? No ; Laurence did not believe in sudden 
conscience-smites with such men as Sir Charles Mitford ; 
and he had further noticed that though there was no open 
flirtation, there was plenty of eye-telegraphy of a very 
peculiar and significant kind. They had come to some 
understanding evidently, for Mrs Hammond now seldom 
addressed her conversation to her host, but kept her hand 
in by practising on the susceptible heart of Major Winton, 
or by coquetting with some of the officers whq were in T 



196 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



variably to be found dining at Eedmoor. She bad tried to 
rechauffer a little of the old story with Laurence, but had 
encountered something so much more marked than mere 
disinclination, that she suspended operations at once. 

However, be this as it might, the necessity for Alsager's 
stay at Eedmoor, even judged by his own peculiar notions, 
was at an end. The JJollamore question never had been 
mooted ; the Hammond difficulty seemed entirely in abey- 
ance. What further need was there for him to keep watch 
and ward over the Eedmoor household ? He could be 
back in town as soon as they could, go where they might ; 
something would occur during the season, he thought, and 
he might as well be there on guard ; but that was a matter 
of only a few hours from wherever he might happen to be. 

Whither should he go, then ? Not back to London — 
that was impossible. The week or two he had passed there 
had thoroughly sickened him of London for some time to 
come. Paris ? No, he thought not ! The hals d? opera 
would be on then, — Frisotte and Eigolette, Celestine and 
Mogador, Brididi and the Eeine Pomare — O yes, he knew 
it all ; it was a very long time since those excrcitations of 
the cancan, rebuked by the sergents-de-ville in a low grumble 
of " Pas si fort ! pas si fort ! point du te'h'grapJie ! " had 
afforded bim the slightest pleasure. Leicestershire ? No, 
though he had purchased Sir Launcelot, and from merely 
that short experience of him at Acton, felt sure that he 
would " show them the way " — no, not Leicestershire this 
year, he thought, nor anywhere else, unless he went down 
to Knockholt to see his father. Yes, by Jove ! he ought 
to have done that long since, and now he would do it at 
once. 

He settled this in his own mind as he was dressing for 
dinner about a week after the winter picnic. Settled it not 
without long deliberation and a little sleep, for he began to 
give the matter his careful consideration after returning from 
a long day's shooting ; and it was not until he had steamed 
and lathered himself in a warm bath, had pulled the little 
sofa in front of the fire, and was contemplating his evening 
clothes neatly arranged on an adjacent chair, that he began 
to consider the question. His deliberation involved the 



Itt THE DiUWmi-J.'OOM. 107 

putting Tip of his feet on the sofa, and that proceeding 
caused him at once to drop helplessly off to sleep, only to 
be roused by the loud clanging of the second dinner-bell. 

An addition accrued to the dinner-party that day, in the 
persons of Sir Thomas Hayter, a country neighbour, his wife 
and daughter. Sir Thomas was a hearty old Tory country 
squire, who during his one season in London had been cap- 
tivated by and had married her ladyship ; at the time of her 
marriage a passee beauty, now a thin chip of an old woman, 
still affecting girlish airs. Miss Hayter was a fine, fresh, 
dashing, exuberant girl, inclined to flirting, and fulfilling her 
inclination thoroughly. They infused a little new life into 
the party ; for though Sir Thomas did not talk a great deal, 
he listened to everything that was said, and threw in an 
occasional " Ha ! dear me ! " with great vigour and effect, 
while Lady Hayter chirped away to Sir Charles Mitford, 
asking him about all sorts of London people of whom he 
had never heard, and quite bewildering him with her volu- 
bility. She succeeded better with Mr Hammond, whose 
health was fast improving in the soft Devon air, and who, 
in spite of the strongly-expressed opinion of his wife, had 
come down to dinner that day. He was seated next to 
Lady Hayter ; and shortly after dinner commenced, he 
found out that he had known her before her marriage, when 
she was Miss Eitzgibbon ; " used to have the pleasure of 
meeting you at the Silvesters' in South Audley Street ; " 
and then they entered upon a very long conversation about 
the acquaintances of their youth, while all the time each 
was stealing covert glances at the other, and wondering how 
it was possible — she, that that cadaverous, parchment-faced, 
bent invalid could be the handsome boy who in those days 
had just come up from Haileybury, and was going to India 
with such good prospects ; he, that the old woman with the 
palpably-dyed purple hair, the scraggy neck, and the re- 
splendent teeth — the gold springs of which were so very 
visible — could have been Emily Eitzgibbon, about whose 
beauty every one was raving in '25. Miss Hayter too was 
very happy ; she was immensely taken by Laurence Alsager, 
next to whom she was seated. She had heard of him often ; 
and two years before, when she was in London, ho had been 



198 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



pointed out to her at the Opera ; and she, then a young 
lady of seventeen, had gone home and written about hiin in 
her diary, and drawn portraits of him in her blotting-book, 
and thought him the handsomest creature in the world. 
She told him this, not of course in so many words, but with 
that charming quiet way of paying a compliment which 
some well-bred women possess ; and she had also heard of 
the catastrophe with the ponies at Acton, and of his gallant 
conduct. 

" For it was very gallant, you know, Colonel Alsager ; 
any one could see that, even through that ridiculous news- 
paper report ; and it was a splendid jump too. I was talk- 
ing about it the other day to my cousin Fred Rivers, who 
knows you, T think ; and he said he'd seen the place, and 

Mr , I forget his name ; the head man up there — said 

it was as fine a thing as ever was done in Leicestershire ; 
and Fred said he thought so too ; ' bar none,' he said, 
in that sporting way, don't you know, which he has of 
talking." 

' Tou make a great deal too much of it, Miss Hayter," 
said Laurence, smiling ; " I've seen Fred Rivers take mauy 
such jumps himself, for a better horseman never crossed 
country." 

" Ah, yes, during a run, I daresay ; but this was in cold 
blood, wasn't it ? — not that I wonder at your doing any- 
thing for Lady Mitford. Isn't she lovely ? I declare I 
never saw such a perfect face in my life." 

Alsager was about to answer, when Major Maxse spoke 
from the other side of the table, " Oh, by the way, Colonel 
Alsager, what Miss Hayter was saying reminds me that 
you ought not to have driven that day we went to Egre- 
mont ; you should have gone on horseback. There's a very 
neat country if you do but know it." 

" Did you drive over, Colonel Alsager ? " asked Miss 
Hayter in astonishment. 

" Tes ; I drove Lady Mitford in her pony-phaeton." 
(" Oh ! " in a subdued tone from Miss Hayter.) " Sir 
Charles was the only one who rode." 

"And Mrs Hammond, — I beg your pardon, and Mrs 
Hammond ! " said Major "Winton, the first words he had 



IN THE DRAWING-BOOM. 199 

spoken since he sat down to dinner. " I too was on horse- 
back, but I can scarcely be said to have ridden. But, 
coming back, they went away splendidly. I never saw 
anything better than the manner in which the first fence 
was cleared by them both. I daresay it was as good all 
over the course ; but they got away after the first, and we 
never saw any more of them." 

And Major Winton sipped his first glass of post-prandial 
claret with great gusto. He had paid oft" Mrs Hammond 
for using him on the picnic- day, and throwing him off 
when she no longer required him. It was to be presumed, 
however, that Mrs Hammond had not heard this remark ; 
at least she gave no signs of having done so, being occupied 
in conversation with Captain JBligh. Sir Charles Mitford 
grew very red ; Miss Hayter looked round, enjoying the 
fun ; and an awkward pause ensued, broken by old Sir 
Thomas Hayter. 

" Didn't I hear you say you were over at Bgremont the 
other day, Mitford ? " 

" Tes, Sir Thomas ; we went over there, and had a kind 
of winter picnic." 

"You didn't see anything of Tom Boscastle, I sup- 
pose ? " 

" No ; we only went to the ruins, and lunched in the 
keep. Besides, I don't know him." 

" Ah ! you wouldn't have seen hiin if you had known 
him. He keeps quite to himself just now " 

" What's the matter ? is he ill ? " 

" No, not ill in body, you know. What's that Ave used 
to learn in the Latin grammar — ' magis quam corjpore, 
wgrotat ' — his mind, you know." 

" That's bad ; what has brought that about ? " 

" Well, you see, he's got a son, a wild extravagant fellow, 
who has run through I can't tell how much money, which 
poor Tom could very ill afford, as we all know ; and the 
last thing the vagabond did was to get hold of his father's 
cheque-book, and forge his name to a terrible amount." 

Had Sir Thomas been a gentleman of quick perception — - 
a charge which had never been brought against him — he 
would have been very much astonished at the effect of his 



200 



KUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



anecdote. Sir Charles Mitford turned deadly white. 
Colonel Alsager frowned heavily, and glanced towards 
Lady Mitford, who, pale as her husband, looked as if she 
were about to faint ; Lord Dollamore glanced sharply at 
Sir Thomas Hayter, to see whether he had spoken inno- 
cently or with malice prepense. Mrs Hammond was the 
only one who seemed to keep her wits thoroughly about 
her. She glanced at Lady Mitford, and then pushing her 
chair back sharply, as though obeying a signal from her 
hostess, rose from the table, followed of course by all the 
other ladies. 

After their departure, and so soon as the door closed be- 
hind them, Lord Dollamore addressed himself to Sir Thomas, 
asking him if he had heard the report that the Whig Min- 
istry intended to impose a new duty on cider — a subject 
which he knew would engross the old gentleman's atten- 
tion, to the exclusion of Tom Boscastle and every one else. 
And, as Lord Dollamore said afterwards, it was an illimit- 
able subject, for he himself invented the report as a herring 
across the scent ; but under old Hayter's fostering care 
it grew into a perfect Frankensteinian monster. While 
they were talking, Sir Charles Mitford filled a bumper of 
claret, and after swallowing half of it, looked round the 
table to see the extent of the calamity. Then, for the first 
time, he acknowledged to himself how right the girl Lizzie 
Ponsford had been in what she had said. Dollamore evi- 
dently knew the story, and Alsager — perhaps Hammond, 
who was leaning back in his chair, enjoying his Madeira ; 
but he could tell in an instant, by the expression of their 
faces, that none of the others had heard it. Another link 
had been forged this evening in the chain of his attach- 
ment to that charming Mrs Hammond ! how nobly she had 
behaved ! Poor Georgie had lost her head of course, and 
had very nearly made a mess of it by fainting, or screaming, 
or something; but that other woman did just exactly the 
right thing at the right time. And all for him ! He was 
more infatuated with her than ever. He wondered whether 
he should ever have the chance of telling her so. He won- 
dered how Butler was progressing in his mission. 



IN THE DRAWING-itOOlM. 201 

By the time the gentlemen arrived in the drawing-room, 
all trace of the little awkwardness at the dessert-table had 
passed away. Indeed, Miss Hayter was the only one of 
all the ladies who had noticed Goorgie's uneasiness, and 
she had not attributed it to its right cause. Now Lady 
Mitford was looking as serenely lovely as ever, listening to 
Mrs Charteris warbling away at the piano ; and she looked 
at her husband with such loving solicitude as lie entered 
the room, that he could not refrain from going up to her, 
smiling kindly, and pressing her hand, as he whispered, 
'■ All right ! quite blown over." 

Then Sir Charles went in search of Mrs Hammond. 
She was sitting in a low chair near the fire, with a little 
table bearing a shaded lamp close by her hand, and was 
amusing herself by turning over an album of prints. She 
never gave herself the smallest trouble when left alone 
with women ; she did not care what they thought of her, 
and, save under peculiar circumstances, she made no effort 
to please them. She wished to stand well with Lady Mit- 
ford, but she considered she had done enough to that end 
for one day by executing the masterly retreat from the 
dinner-table. So she sat there idly under the shade of the 
lamp, and Sir Charles Mitford thought he had never seen 
her to such advantage. Her rounded figure showed to 
perfection in her violet-velvet dress trimmed with soft 
white lace ; her head reclined lazily on the back of her 
chair, and her eyes rested with calm indifference on the 
pages of the album — indifference which was succeeded by 
bright vivacity as she raised them and marked her host's 
approach. 

He dropped quietly into a chair close by hers and said, 
' ; Tou have increased my debt of gratitude to you a thou- 
sand-fold." 

" Have I ? " she replied ; " it has been very easily in- 
creased. So easily that I don't know how it has been 
done." 

" Don't you ? Then your natural talent is wonderful. I 
should think there were few better or more useful strata- 
gems in warfare than the diversion of the enemy's atten- 
tion from your weak point." 



202 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

" Oh," she said, " that is not worth remembering ; cer- 
tainly not worth mentioning again. I am so glad," she 
added, dropping her voice, " to see you by my side again. 
I have gone through all kinds of self-examination, imagining 
that I had in some way offended you ; going over in my 
own mind all that I had said or done since that delicious 
ride home from Egremont, and I could not tax myself with 
having wittingly given you any cause for offence. But you 
seemed to avoid me, to shrink from me, and I cannot tell 
you how I felt it." 

Voice very low here, looks downcast, and general de- 
pression. 

" Don't speak in that way," said Sir Charles in the same 
tone ; " you don't understand my position. I could ex- 
plain, and I will some time or other when I have the 
chance ; not now, because — Yes, you are quite right, Mrs 
Hammond, Sir Thomas is a thorough specimen of the 
good old English — " 

" Very sorry to interrupt so pleasant a talk, specially 
when on so charming a subject as Sir Thomas Hayter," said 
Lord Dollamore, approaching ; " but I come as a deputation 
from the general company to beg that Mrs Hammond will 
sing to us." 

" Mrs Hammond would be charmed," said that lady ; 
"but to-night she is out of voice, and really cannot." 

" Do, Mrs Hammond ; as a matter of mere charity, do," 
said Lord Dollamore. " That delightful person Mrs Char- 
teris, — most delightful, and kind, and all that, — has been 
trilling away every evening until one is absolutely sick of 
her thin little voice. Do, for pity's sake, change the note, 
and let us have a little of your contralto. Do." 

" You're very polite, Lord Dollamore ; and ' as a matter 
of mere charity ' I should be delighted to help you, but 
really I am out of voice and cannot. Stay ; the old rule 
in convivial societies was, or I am mistaken, that one 
should sing or find a substitute. Now I think I can do 
the latter. Miss Hammond's companion, governess, what 
you will, — Miss Gillespie, — sings charmingly. If Lady 
Mitford will permit me, I will send for her." 

Greorgie, appealed to, was only too well pleased to secure 



IN THE DRAWING-ROOM. 203 

such an aid to the evening's entertainment ; so a message 
was sent to Miss Gillespie, and she was requested to 
"bring some songs;" Miss Hayter filling up the interval 
by playing, sufficiently brilliantly, a pot-pourri of dance- 
music. 

Towards the end of this performance the door opened 
and Miss Gillespie entered. All eyes were instantly turned 
towards her, and — in the case of all the men at least — the 
casual glance grew into a lengthened gaze. She was a very 
striking-looking woman, with her sallow cheeks, her large 
eyes, her brown hair rolling in crisp waves on her forehead. 
She was dressed in a tight-fitting brown-silk dress with 
handsomely-worked collar and sleeves, and in her hand she 
carried a roll of music, of which Lord Dollamore stepped 
forward to relieve her ; but she thanked him with a slight 
bow and sat down on the chair close to the door, still re- 
taining her roll of music in her hand. 

When Miss Hayter had ceased playing, Lady Mitford 
crossed the room and shook hands with Miss Gillespie, 
offered her refreshment, thanked her very sweetly for the 
promptitude with which she had acceded to their request, 
and told her that Mrs Hammond had already raised their 
expectation very high. Then Sir Charles Mitford came up 
somewhat stiffly, and offered his arm to Miss Gillespie and 
led her to the piano ; and there, just removing her gloves, 
and without the smallest hesitation or affectation, she sat 
down, and with scarcely any prelude plunged at once into 
that most delightful of melodies, " Che faro senza Eury- 
dice," from Gliick's Orfeo. Ah, what a voice ! clear, bell- 
like, thrilling, touching not merely the tympanum of the 
ear, but acting on the nerves and on the spinal vertebrae. 
"What melody in it ! what wondrous power ! and as she 
poured out the refrain, " Eurydice, Eurydice ! " what deep 
passionate tenderness ! The company sat spell-bound ; 
Lord Dollamore, an accomplished musician himself, and one 
who had heard the best music everywhere, sat nursing his 
knee and drinking-in every note. Laurence Alsager, rapt 
in admiration, had even been guilty of the discourtesy of 
turning his back on Miss Hayter, whose chatter began to 
annoy him, and was beating time with his head and hand. 



20i 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



Tom Charteris had crept behind his wife, who, far too good 
a little woman to feel professional jealous)", was completely 
delighted ; and the big tears were rolling down Lady Mit- 
ford's face. She was still a child, you see, and had not 
gone through the Clanronald furnace, where all tears are 
dried up for ever. 

"When the song was ended, there came a volley of ap- 
plause such as is seldom heard in drawing-rooms, and far 
different from the usual languid " Thank you," which 
crowns the failure of the amateur. Miss Gillespie looked 
round elated, as though the sound was pleasant and not un- 
familiar to her, and was about to rise from her seat, when 
Laurence Alsager, who was nearest the piano, advanced, 
and begged she would remain — he was sure he spoke in the 
name of all present. So Miss Gillespie, after looking him 
hard in the face, made him a little bow, and remained at 
the piano, this time starting off into one of Louis Puget's 
charming French ballads, " Ta main," which she sung with 
as much fire and chic as if she had never quitted Paris. 

At the conclusion of the second song, Lady Mitford came 
across to the piano to thank the singer, and she was followed 
by Mrs Charteris and Mrs Masters. Mrs Charteris was 
in the highest delight — a feeling not at all decreased when 
Miss Gillespie assured her that she had frequently listened 
to her, Mrs Charteris's, singing, and had often envied that 
lady her correct musical education. Mrs Masters said her 
little complimentary say about the song, but was principally 
taken up by Miss Gillespie's costume. She was one of 
those women who never see anything new worn by any 
other woman without taking private mental notes of its 
every detail ; thus setting at defiance any attempted exten- 
sion of the Patent laws in regard to female apparel. So, 
with her eyes devouring Miss Gillespie's dress, Mrs 
Masters said to her: " Yes, so charming that Gliick ! so 
full of depth and power ! — (Wonderfully good silk ; stands 
by itself like a board !) — And the little French chansonnette, 
so sparkling and melodious, and — (O yes, certainly French 
I should think ! no English house could — ) may I ask you 
where you got that collar and those cuffs, Miss — Miss 
Asplin ? They are most peculiar ! " 



IN THE DEAWINC-KOOM. 20-J 

" Mv name is Gillespie, madam ; and the collar and cuffs 
I worked myself." After which Mrs Masters bowed, and 
went back to her seat. 

During this examination Laurence Alsager,who had seated 
himself next to Miss Hayter, in the neighbourhood of the 
piano, was conscious that Miss Gillespie's looks constantly- 
strayed towards him. It is very odd. There was nothing 
coquettish in the regard, he knew every one in that category 
of glances of old ; but these were strangely earnest looks, 
always averted when she found they were remarked. AVhile 
they were full upon him, Miss Hayter, in reply to some- 
thing he had said about his delight in ferns, expressed a 
hope that they would see him at her father's place, the 
Arme Wood, where there was a splendid fernery Lau- 
rence, in reply, thanked her, and said how happy he would 
have been to go, but that he feared it would be impossible, 
as he intended to leave Uedmoor in a day or two. He 
must be a dutiful son, and visit his father, whom he had 
not seen since his return to England. As he said this 
Miss Gillespie's eyes were full on him. 

They were very singular eyes, he thought, as he un- 
dressed himself lazily before the fire in his bed-room. Yevj 
singular eyes ; so large, and dark, and speaking. What on 
earth made the woman look at him so perpetually ! He was 
growing too old to inspire love at first sight, he felt, smil- 
ing grimly as he inspected himself in the looking-glass ; be- 
sides, she was not the style of woman for any such folly. 
How magnificently she sung ! what depth and pathos there 
was in her voice ! " Eurydice, Eurydice ! " — those notes 
were enough to go through any man's soul ; those notes 
were enough to — hallo, what's this ? 

He had strolled across to the dressing-table, and taken 
up a small sealed note, addressed in a thin fine female hand 
to Colonel Alsager. 

He broke the seal and read : 

" I heard you talk of leaving Redmoor. If not impossi- 
ble I pray you to stay. Your presence will be a check upon 
two people, who, liberated from that, will go headlong to 



206 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

ruin, dragging down a third in their fall. Eor the welfare 
of this third person both you and I are solicitous. But it 
seems probiible that my sphere of usefulness is ended ; so 
all devolves upon you. Remember this, and for her sake, 
stay on." 

"Ah ! " said Laurence Alsager when he had perused this 
mysterious note for the second time — " there's no doubt 
that my anonymous correspondent is the handsome woman 
with the eyes and voice. "What she means I'll find out in 
the morning." 



CHAPTER XIX. 

DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND. 



On the morning after the day when Miss Gillespie had 
made so successful a debut among the company assembled 
at Redmoor, Mr Effingham, lounging quietly up the road 
from the Mitford Arms, rang at the lodge-gate, and after a 
few minutes' conversation with the old portress, passed up 
the avenue. His conversation was purely of a pleasant 
character ; there was no inquiry as to who he was, or what 
he wanted, — all that had been settled long ago. He was a 
gentleman from London, who was writing a book 'bout all 
the old fam'ly houses, and was going to put our place into 
it. He knew Sir Charles, and had his leave to come and go 
when he liked. A civil-spoken gentleman he was, and 
talked most wonderful ; never passed the lodge without 
stopping to say something. Perhaps of all Mr Effingham's 
peculiarities, this impressed the old woman the most ; for, 
like all country people of her class who live a solitary and 
quiet life, she was thoroughly reticent, and it is question- 
able whether, beyond the ordinary salutations to those with 
whom she was brought in contact, she uttered more than a 
dozen sentences in a week. But Mr Effingham's light airy 
phatter was yery welcome to the old lady, and, combined 



PIAMOND CUT DIAMOND. 207 

with the politeness which he always exhibited, had rendered 
him a great favourite. 

A considerable alteration had been effected in Mr Effing- 
ham's outward man since his first visit to Bedmoor. As in 
the former instance, his first step on receiving the ten 
pounds from Sir Charles was to purchase a new suit of 
clothes. He bought them at the neighbouring town, and 
in pursuance of his intention to assume a literary or artistic 
character, he had endeavoured to render his apparel suitable, 
or, as he called it, " to make up for the part." So he now 
wore a large slouch felt wideawake hat, a dark velveteen 
jacket, long waistcoat, gray trousers, and ankle-jack boots. 
Had he carried out his own views of literary attire, he 
would have adopted a long dressing-gown and Turkish 
trousers, such as he had seen in the portraits of celebrated 
authors ; but he felt that these would be out of place in 
the country, and might attract attention. He, however, 
armed himself with a large note-book and a pencil of por- 
tentous thickness, with which he was in the habit of jotting 
down visionary memoranda whenever he found himself ob- 
served. By the initiated and the upper classes this last- 
described act may have been recognized as an indisputable 
literary trait ; but by the lower orders Mr Effingham was 
regarded as a mystic potentate of the turf, whose visit to 
the Mitford arms had mysterious connection with the 
proximity of Sir Danesbury Boucher's stables, where Lime- 
juice, the third favourite for the Derby, was in training; 
while the entries of the memoranda were by the same peo- 
ple ascribed to the exercise of a process known to them as 
the booking of bets. 

The March morning was so splendid in its freshness and 
bright glittering sunlight, that Mr Effingham, although 
little given to admiring the beauties of nature, could not 
resist occasionally stopping and looking round him. The 
old elms forming the avenue were just putting forth their 
first buds ; far away on either side stretched broad alterna- 
tions of turf in level, hill, and glade, all glistening with the 
morning dew ; while on the horizon fronting him, and be' 
hind the house, could be seen the outline of the great Bed ; 
moor. The jolly old house stood like some red-faced giant, 



208 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



its mullioned windows winking at the sunlight, the house 
itself just waking into life. From the stable-yard came a 
string of ruged and hooded horses for exercise. The gar- 
deners were crossing from the conservatory bearing choice 
flowers for the decoration of the rooms. At the porch was 
standing the head-keeper, accompanied by two splendid 
dogs ; a groom on horseback, with the swollen post-bag 
slung round him, passed Mr Effingham in the avenue ; — 
everywhere around were signs of wealth and prosperity. 

" Yes," said Mr Effingham to himself, as he stopped and 
surveyed the scene, " this is better than my lodgings in 
Doory Lane, this is ! No end better ! And why should 
this fellow have it, and not me — that's what I want to 
know ? I could do it up pretty brown, here, I'm thinkin'; 
not like him — not in the same way, that is, but quite as 
good. There mighn't be so many nobs, but there'd be 
plenty of good fellers ; and as for the nobs, Lord bless you, 
when they found there was plenty of good grub and drink, 
and good fun to be had, they'd come fast enough. I 
should just like to try it, that's all ; I'd show him. And 
why shouldn't I try it ? Not in this way, perhaps — not to 
cut it quite so fat as this, but still reg'lar comfortable and 
nice. A nice little box at Einchley or Hampstead, with a 
bit o'lawn, and a pony-trap, and chickens, and a spare bed 
for a pal, — that's my notion of comfort ! And why shouldn't 
I have it, if I play my cards properly ? Damme, I will have 
it ! I'm sick of cadgin' about from hand to mouth, never 
knowin' what's goin' to turn up next. This bit o' stiff 
ought to be worth anything to me — anything in reason, 
that is to say. 80, when I've once got it from our friend 
here, and that won't be just yet, — I must get her away 
from here, and have her well under my thumb, before I try 
that on, — when I once get that docyment, I'll take it 
straight to Sir Charles, and let him have it for a sum down 
■ — must be a big sum too — and then I'll cut the whole lot 
of 'em, and go and live somewhere in the country by my- 
self! That's what I'll do ! " 

L'appetit vient en mangeant, "When Mr Effingham was 
utterly destitute he accommodated himself to his position, 
and lived on, from hand to mouth, in the best way he could. 



DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND. 200 

He retired to t.ho back-ways and slums then, and seeing 
very few people much better off than he was himself, his 
envy and jealousy were not excited. Sir Charles's ten 
pounds had disturbed the little man's mental equilibrium • 
the readiness with which they melted in his grasp showed 
him how easily he could get rid of a hundred, of a thousand, 
of ten thousand. The sight of the comfort and luxury of 
Redmoor contrasted horribly with the wretchedness of his 
own lodging, and lashed him into a storm of rage. 

" It's too bad ! " said he, striking his stick against the 
tree by which he was standing, — " it's too bad that there 
should be all this lot of money in the world, and that I 
should have none of it, while this cove here — O yes, if you 
please, my horses goin' out with the grooms ; my gardeners 
a bringin' pines and melons and all the rest of it ; my 
keeper a-waitin' to know how many pheasants I'm going to 
kill to-day ! Damme, it's sickening ! " Mr Effingham 
.struck the tree again, pushed his hat over his eyes, and 
stai'ted off in his walk. When he had proceeded about 
half-way up the avenue, he climbed the iron fence, and 
started off to the right over the park, until he reached a 
little knoll, on the top of which were two magnificent cedars. 
On the other side of these cedars, and completely hidden 
by them from the house, was a carved rustic seat. On 
reaching the top of the knoll, Mr Effingham looked round, 
and seeing nobody, sat down, put his feet up, and made 
himself most comfortable. 

A lengthened contemplation of the cedars, however, in- 
stead, as might have been expected, of bringing calm to his 
perturbed soul, served only to remind him that they, in 
common with all the surroundings, were the property of 
somebody else, and that on that somebody else he had a 
tremendous hold, provided he went properly to work. 

" And I'll do it ! " said he, taking his feet off the bench, 
and pushing the felt wideawake hat into all kinds of shapes 
in his excitement,- — " I'll do it too ! Now, let me see ! My 
friend will be here presently — let me just run through 
what's to be done. Quiet's the game with her, I thiuk ; no 
bullyrag and bluster. — quiet and soft. No connection with 
any one here — never even heard the name — sent by the 

14 



210 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



other parties — I'm so innocent. Yes, I think that will do ; 
then, when we've once started together, I can make my own 
terms. — How late she is ! She must be awfully down on 
her luck at being spotted down here, and she must suspect 
something by the quick way in which she agreed to meet 
me here when I spoke to her yesterday as she was walkin' 
with the young 'un, — made no bones about it at all. She 
won't fail me, I suppose." 

Oh no, she would not fail him. There she was, crossing 
the park apparently from the back of the stables, and mak- 
ing straight for the cedars. Could it be she ? A figure 
bent nearly double, dressed in an old-fashioned black-silk 
cloak and a poke-bonnet, and leaning on a thick umbrella. 
It was not until she was well under the shadow of the 
cedars, that she straightened herself, pushed back her bon- 
net, and stood revealed as Miss Gillespie. 

" Good-morning," said she, so crisply and blithely that 
Mr Effingham, who had expected she would adopt a very , 
different tone, was quite astonished ; " I'm afraid I'm a 

little late, Mr ; you did not favour me with your 

name ; but the fact is, as you probably know, I am not my 
own mistress, and my services were required just as I was 
about to start." 

" All right, miss," said Mr Effingham, taking off his hat, 
and making a bow as near as possible after the manner of 
walking-gentlemen on the stage — a proceeding with which 
the limpness of the wideawake's brim interfered consider- 
ably ; " my name's Effingham." 

" Indeed ! what a pretty name ! so romantic. You would 
not mind my sitting down, would you ? No ; that's all 
right. And now, Mr Effingham, I suppose you want some- 
thing of me, don't you, after that mysterious communication 
which you made to me yesterday when I was walking with 
my pupil ? Poor child ! she's been in a state of wonder- 
ment ever since ; and I've had to invent such stories about 
you. And what is it you want, Mr Effingham ? " 

Mr Effingham scarcely liked the tone ; he felt he was 
being " chaffed ; " so he thought he would bring matters to 
a crisis by saying, " My name's not Effingham — at least, not 
more than yours is Gillespie." 



DIAMOND CI 1 '!' DIAMOND. 211 

" Oh, I perceive," said she with a little nod. 

"My name's Butler us much as yours is Pousford. Now 
d'ye see ? " 

" O yes ; now I see perfectly. Butler, eh ? Any re- 
lation of a man named Tony Butler who is now dead ? " 

" Yes — his brother. He may have spoken to you of a 
brother in America.' 1 

" In America ! ay, ay. "Well, Mr Butler," she continued 
with a bright smile, " now I know that you're the brother of 
Tony Butler, there's scarcely any need of repeating my 
question whether you wanted anything ; for — pardon me 
— you could hardly belong to that interesting family without 
wanting something. The question is, what do you want ? 
Money ? and if so, how much ? " 

" No ; I don't want money — " 

" That's very unlike Tony Butler. I shall begin to dis- 
credit your statements," said she, still with the pleasant 
smile. 

" At least not yet, nor from you. But I do want some- 
thing." 

" Te-es, and that is — " 

" I want you to go away from here with me at 
once." 

" To go away from here ! O no. Gonnu, my dear Mr 
Butler ; I see the whole of the play. This is not your own 
business at all, dear sir. Tou dance, and kick your legs and 
swing your arms very well ; but you are a puppet, and the 
gentleman who pulls the strings lives over yonder ; " and 
she pointed with her umbrella to Bedmoor House. 

" I can't make out what you mean." 

" yes, you can. ' A master I have, and I am his man.' 
Tou are Sir Charles Mitford's man, Mr Butler ; and he has 
set you on to tell me that I must leave this place and rid 
him of my influence. Now, you may go back to Sir Charles 
Mitford, your master, and tell him that I set him utterly at 
defiance ; that I won't move, and that he can't make me. 
Do you hear that, my dear Mr Butler ? " 

She had risen from her seat, and stood erect before him, 
looking very grand and savage. Her companion laiew that 
the success of his scheme depended wholly upon the man- 



212 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



ner in which he carried out the next move, and accordingly 
he threw all his power into the acting of it. 

" You're one of those who answer their own questions, I 
see," said he with perfect calmness. " I've met lots o' that 
sort in my travels, and I never found 'em do so much good 
as those that waited. All you've been saying's Greek to 
me. Who's Sir Charles Mitford ? I've heard of him, 
of course, as the swell that lives in that house. They've 
never done talking of him at the Mitford Arms and all about 
there. But what's he to do with you ? I suppose it don't 
matter to him who his friends' governesses is. He's not 
sweet on you, is he ? If so, he wouldn't want you to go 
away. And what's he to do with me ? and how's he likely 
to hear of my having been in the place ? I haven't left my 
card upon him, I promise you," said Mr Effingham with a 
grim humour. 

Miss Gillespie looked at him hard, very hard. But his 
perfect command of feature had often stood Mr Effingham 
in good stead, and it did not desert him now. The saucy 
laughter on his lips corresponded with the easy bantering 
tone of his voice ; he sat swinging his legs and sucking his 
stick, the incarnation of insolence. Ho far he was triumph- 
ant. 

She waited a minute or two, biting her lips, and turning 
her plans in her mind. Then she said, " Granting what 
you say — and it was rather a preposterous proposition of 
mine, 1 admit — you are still a puppet in somebody's hands. 
Tou had no knowledge of my previous life, and yet you 
come to me and say I must come away at once with yon. 
"Why must I come away ? " 

" Because you're wanted." 

"And by whom ?" 

" By the crew of the Albatross. Ah, I thought yon 
wouldn't be quite so much amused and so full of your grins 
when I mentioned them." 

" Oh," said she, recovering herself, " I can still grin 
when there's anything to amuse me. But we seem to have 
changed places ; now you've talking riddles which I cannot 
understand." 

" Can't you ? then I must explain them for you. If 



DIAMoNU CUT DIAMo.M.i. 1> 1 o 

what I'm told is right — but it's very little 1 know — you 
belonged to that crew yourself once. My brother Tony 
"was one of them, I understand ; and though he's dead now, 
there's several of 'em left. Old Lyons, for instance, — you 
recollect him? Crockett, Griffiths— " 

'" Suppose, to avoid giving you further trouble, I say I do 
recollect them, what then ? " 

" You're angry, although you smile ; I can see that fast 
enough. But what's the good of being angry with me ? 
You know when a feller gets into their hands what chance 
he has. You know that fast enough, or ought to. Well, 
I'm iu their hands, and have to do what they order me." 

" And they've ordered you to come down to me ? " 

" They found out where you were, and sent me after 
you." 

" Ha ! And what on earth can have induced them, after 
a certain lapse of time, to be so suddenly solicitous of my 
welfare ? " said Miss Gillespie, laughingly. " There was 
never any great love between any of those you have 
named and myself. I have no money for them to rob me of, 
nor do I see that I can be of any great use to them." 

' : I don't know that," said Mr Effingham, laying his fore- 
finger knowingly alongside his nose. " You see, you're a 
pretty gal, and you've rather got over me — " 

'• Flattered, I am sure," said Miss Gillespie, showing all 
her teeth. 

' ; jS"o, it ain't that," said he, with a dim perception that 
his compliment was not too graciously received ; " it ain't 
that ; but I do like a pretty girl somehow. Well, you see, 
they don't let me much into their secrets — don't tell me 
the reason why I'm told to do so and so ; they only tell me 
to go and do it. But I don't mind tellin' you- — taking au 
interest in you, as I've just said — that, from what they've 
let drop accidentally, I think you can be of great use to 
them." 

" Indeed ! have you any notion how? " 

'• Well, now look here. I'm blowin' their gaff to you, 
and you know what I should get if they knew it ; so swear 
you'll never let on. From what I can make out, there's 
certain games which you used to do for them that they've 



214 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

never been able to find anybody to come near you in. I 
mean the Mysterious Lady, the fortune-tellin', and the 
electro-biology business." 

Some scenes recalled to her memory by these words 
seemed to amuse Miss Gillespie, and she laughed heartily. 

" But that's ' general work,' " continued Mr Effingham ; 
" what they want you particularly for just now is this. 
Some swell, so far as I can make out, came to grief early in 
life, and made a mistake in putting somebody else's name 
to paper ; what they call forgery, you know." 

She nodded. 

" Old Lyons has got hold of this paper, and he wants to 
put the screw on the swell and make him bleed. Now 
there's none of the lot has half your manner, nor, as they 
say, half your tact ; and that's why, as I believe, is the rea- 
son they want you back in town amongst them." 

" Ah ! to — what did you say ? — ' to put the screw on a 
swell and make him bleed,' wasn't it ? How very nice ! 
"Well, now you've obeyed your orders, and it's for me to 
speak. And suppose — just suppose for the fun of the thing 
— I were to hold by my original decision and declare I 
would not come, what would you do ? " 

" I should go back to town and tell 'em all that had 
passed." 

" And they ? — what would they do ? " 

" I can tell you that, because that was part of my in- 
structions. Old Lyons put that very plain. ' If she rides 
rusty,' he says, — ' and she's got a temper of her own, I can 
tell you, — just let her know from me that I'll ruin her. I'll 
never leave her ; she knows me of old ; it won't be merely,' 
he says, ' her being turned away in disgrace out of where 
she is now ; but I'll never leave her. She may go where 
she likes, but I've found her out once, and I'll find her out 
again ; I'll foller her up, and I'll be the ruin of her,' he 
says, ' so sure's her name's what it is.' " 

He looked up to see the effect of his speech, but Miss 
Gillespie was looking full at him with an expression of great 
interest and a very pleasant smile, as if she were listening 
to the narration of a thrilling story with which she had no 
connection save that of listener. 



DIAMOND (JUT DIAMOND. iMij 

" Did ho indeed say all that? " aaid she, after a pause. 
*' Oh, he's a mo^t terrible old man, and whatever he deter- 
mines on, he never fails of carrying out. However, I think 
I won't put him to much trouble this time." 

" How do you mean ? " 
A Veil, do you know I've a strong mind to save you any 
further worry, and to crown you with glory by allowing 
you to carry me back in triumph." 

" Tou don't say so ! but this is too sudden, you know. I 
don't put much trust in such sudden conversions." 

" Mine is not the least sudden. I generally act on the 
impulse of the moment. That now urges me to go back to 
my old life. The shackles of this respectability are begin- 
ning to strain a little. I feel cramped by them occasionally, 
and I suppose I have originally something of the Bohemian 
in my nature, for you have fired me with an ardent longing 
for freedom and irresponsibility." 

" That's right ! " cried Mr Effingham, delighted at the 
success of his scheme ; " that's just as it should be. It's 
all very well for those swells to live on here, and go on 
their daily round. They've got the best of it, so far as they 
know ; but they haven't seen as much as we have. They 
don't know the pleasure of — well, of pitting your wits 
against somebody else who think themselves deuced sharp, 
and beating them, do they ? " 

" No," said Miss Gillespie, with her crispest little laugh ; 
" of course they don't." 

" Well, now," said Mr Eflingham, " you know what old 
Lyons is, reg'lar man of business ; want's everything done 
at once,right off the reel. "When will you be ready to start ? " 

" What a practical man you are, Mr Butler ! " cried she, 
still laughing ; " it will be quite delightful to get back again 
into the society of practical people after all this easy-going 
laissez-aller time. But you must not be too hard upon me 
at first. I've several things to do." 

" Tou won't be saying ' good-bye ' to anybody or any- 
thing of that sort ? " 

" no, nothing of that sort, you may depend." 

" That's right ; you mean putting your things together, 
eh?" 



-Iti RUNNING TliE GAUNTLET. 

" Tes ; packing and getting ready to start." 

" "Well, twenty-four hours will be enough for that, I 
should think. Suppose we say to-morrow at" noon ? " 

" Ye-es, give me a little longer : say two in the afternoon, 
then I shall be perfectly ready." 

" And where shall we meet ? " 

" "We must get across to the rail at once. Not to Tor- 
quay ; there's a small station nearer here, where they won't 
think of looking for us. Not that I suppose they'd take 
any trouble of that kind when they find I'm once gone. 
However, it's best to be prepared. Can you drive ? " 

" I should think so ! " said Mr Effingham with a chuckle. 
" I've driven most things, from a shofie-cab in town to the 
mail- sleigh in Canada! " 

" How very nice ! " said she ; " that will do beautifully, 
then. Tou must get a gig or a dog-cart, or something light, 
from some place in Torquay. I shall have very little lug- 
gage, and have it all ready at a little side-gate of the park, 
which you can see — over there," again bringing the um- 
brella into requisition. " That gate is invisible from the 
house ; it's perfectly quiet and unfrequented, and I have a 
key of it. That once closed behind me I'm thoroughly 
safe." 

' : And there's no chance of our being met, and you being 
recognized r " 

" Not the very smallest. The people staying in the house 
will all be at luncheon ; the gardeners and stable-people, 
should we come across any, will all be in that state of 
comatose repletion which succeeds the after-dinner tobacco. 
Besides, very few of them know me by sight ; and the road 
which I have pointed out skirts the Eedmoor, and is very 
little frequented." 

" That'll do ! that will be first-rate ! Now, let me see if 
all's understood. A dog-cart to be ready to-morrow at yon 
gate of the park, at two o'clock sharp. There you'll be and 
your luggage — eh ? By the by, how's that to get there ? " 

" I told you it would be very little ; and there's a boy 
devoted to my service, who will carry it." 

" All right, — I only wanted to know. Two o'clock to- 
morrow, then." He put out his hand, and as she lightly 



CUKUKMATK. 217 

touched it with the tips of her lingers, offered to seize hers 
and convey it to his lips ; but she slid it through his clumsy 
list, and had pulled the poke-bonnet over her face, resumed 
the bent walk and the clumsy umbrella, and was making her 
May back across the park almost before he had missed her. 

" And if ever a man did a good day's work, I've done one 
this blessed morning," said Mr Effingham, as he strolled 
quietly back through the avenue. " They may talk about 
great genius, if they please. Great genius means getting 
hold of a good idea at the right minute, and strikin' while 
the iron's hot. That's great genius ! and they was two 
great ideas which I've worked just now ! That pretendin' to 
know nothin' of the Bart., and gammonin' her that old 
Lyons sent me after her, was first-rate ! I thought old 
Lyons's name would bring her round. They're all afraid of 
him, it seems. JNTow when we've got some distance on the 
road, I'll tell her the truth, or, at least, as much as I choose, 
and just sound her about the bill. D'Ossay, my boy, you've 
done a good day's work, and can afford to go into Torquay 
and dine like a swell to-night ! " 



CHAPTER XX. 

CHECKMATE. 

jIr Effingham fulfilled his design of going into Torquay 
and dining well. In his singular costume he created quite 
a sensation among the invalids on the Parade, who would 
have severely resented the healthy and sporting tone of his 
ankle-jacks if it had not been mitigated by his slouch wide- 
awake hat and black jacket. As it was, they merely 
regarded him as an eccentric person staying at one of the 
country-houses in the neighbourhood, and they pardoned 
his not being consumptive on the score of his being pro- 
bably either rich or distinguished. So he "did" the town 
and all the lions to his great satisfaction, and, as affording 
them subject-matter for conversation over their valctudi- 



218 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

narian dinners, to the satisfaction of those whom he en- 
countered. He made an excellent dinner at -the hotel, and 
then was driven out of his rural lodgings in a fly, having 
given orders for a dog-cart to be in readiness for him at 
the particular gate of Redmoor Park which he described at 
two o'clock the next day. 

It was a brilliant starlight night, and Mr Effingham had 
the head of the fly opened ; he was well wrapped up, and 
the air being very mild, he wished to enjoy the beauties of 
nature and the flavour of his cigar simultaneously. As he 
lay back puffing the smoke out before him, his thoughts 
again reverted to his morning's work, and again he found 
every reason for self-gratulation. There would be the fifty 
pounds from Sir Charles — -that was safe to start with ; he 
should go up and give him notice in the morning, that that 
cheque might come up by the evening's post. That would 
help him to tide over any delay there might be in getting 
this woman to give up the bill. What a funny one she 
was ! what a regular lively one! how she kept on laughing ! 
and how sly she looked when she said that she was tired of 
that humdrum respectability, and would like to run away 
to the old adventurous life ! Not one to be trifled with, 
though ; none of your larks with her ; regular stand-offish 
party. "Well, never mind ; that did not matter ; what he 
was about now was business, and she seemed thoroughly up 
to that. He did not think he should have much trouble in 
making her see what advantage to them both could be got 
out of a proper use of the forged bill. One point, on which 
he at one time had had some doubt, the interview of that 
morning had satisfactorily set at rest. She had been 
spoony on Mitford — so Griffiths told him — and he feared 
that the old feeling might still remain, and she would refuse 
to take any steps about the bill lest she might injure her 
old flame. But, Lord! he could see plainly enough she 
did not care a snuff of a candle for Mitford now ; rather 
more t'other might be judged from the flash in her eyes 
and the sneer on her lips when she spoke of him. That 
was all right, so — Ah! perhaps her shrewd notions of 
business might lead her to seeing the value of the bill and 
to driving a hard bargain for it. He must be prepared for 



CHECKMATE. 219 

that ; but when lie got lier up to London she would be 
much more in his power. The bill must be had somehow, 
by fair means or foul ; and if she resisted — well, there 
would not be very much trouble in stealing or forcing it 
from her. 

As those reflections passed through his mind the carriage 
in which he sat reached the top of a height, whence was 
obtained a view of Bedmoor House ; its outline standing 
black and heavy against the sky, its lower windows blazing 
with light. The sight turned Mr Eflingham's thoughts into 
a slightly different current. 

" O yes ! go it ; that's your sort," he said to himself 
with a certain amount of bitterness ; " fine games goin' on 
there, I've no doubt ; the best of drink, and coves with 
powdered heads to wait on you ; game o' billiards after- 
wards, or some singin' and a dance with the women in the 
droring-room. That's the way to keep it up ; go it while 
you're young. But, my friend the Bart., you'd sing another 
toon and laugh the wrong side o' your mouth, and cut a 
very different kind o' caper, if you knew what was so close 
to you. I've heard of a cove smokin' a pipe and not 
knowing that what he was sittin' on was a powder-barrel ; 
and this seems to me very much the same sort o' thing. To 
think that close under his nose is the dockyment that 
would just crop his 'air, put him into a gray soot, Cole- 
Barth Fields, Milbank, and Portland, and that cussed stone- 
quarryin' which, from all I've heard, is the heart-breakin'est 
work. To think that he's been payin' me to get the bill, 
and I've been employin' Griffiths and givin' skivs to old 
Lyons and settin' half Doory Lane at work to hunt up the 
gal, and that there she was under his roof the whole time — ■ 
it's tremenjous ! " 

And Mr Effingham laughed aloud, and lit a fresh cigar, 
and pulled the rug tighter over his legs. 

" She's a rum un, she is. I wonder which of them lights 
is in her room. There's one a long way off the rest, up 
high all by itself; that's it, I shouldn't wonder. She's not 
fit company for the swells downstairs, I suppose. Well, 
perhaps not, if they knew everythin' ! But what a blessin' 
it is people don't know everythin' ! Perhaps if they did, 



220 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



some of 'em wouldn't be quite so fond of sittin' down with 
the Bart. I wonder what she's doin' just now. Packin' 
her traps ready for our start, I shouldn't wonder. What a 
game it will be ! Yes, D'Ossay, my boy, this is the best 
day's work you ever did in your life; and your poor brother 
Tony little thought what a power of good he was doin' you 
when he first let you into the secret of Mr Mitford and his 
little games." 

And with these reflections, and constantly-renewed cigars, 
Mr Effingham beguiled the tedium of his journey to the 
Mitford Arms. 

He was up betimes the next morning, making his pre- 
parations for departure. His very small wardrobe — its 
very smallness regarded by the landlady of the inn as a 
proof of the eccentricity of literary genius — was packed in 
a brown-paper parcel. He discharged his modest bill, and 
began to fidget about until it was time to give his employer 
a final and fancy sketch of how he had accomplished his 
mission. Entirely fictional was this sketch intended to be, 
as widely diverging from fact as possible. Mr Effingham 
knew well enough that so long as the removal of Miss 
Gillespie, or Lizzie Ponsford, had been effected, Sir Charles 
Mitford would care very little indeed about the means by 
Avhich it had been accomplished. And as Mr Effingham 
was playing a double game, it would be necessary for him 
to be particularly cautious in making any statement which 
might reveal the real state of the case to Sir Charles. These 
reflections, bringing clearly again before him the great fact 
of the entire business, — that he was being paid for com- 
municating with a person, to communicate with whom he 
would have gladly paid a considerable sum of money had he 
possessed it, — put Mr Effingham into the most satisfactory 
state of mind, and caused the time, which would otherwise 
have hung heavily on his hands, to pass pleasantly and 
quickly. 

He knew that there was little use in attempting to see 
Sir Charles before eleven o'clock ; so about that time he 
made his way up the avenue, on this occasion cutting short 
the old portress, who, contrary to the usual custom, was 
beginning to enter into some little story. It was Mr 



CHECKMATE. 221 

Effingham's plan- — and one which is pretty generally adopted 
in this world, especially by tlie lower order of Mr Smiles's 
friends, the "self-made" men, — to kick down the ladder 
after he had landed from its top ; and as Mr Effingham 
thought he should he able to make no more use of this old 
woman, he did not choose to he bored by her conversation. 
Wo he cut her short with a nod, and walked up the avenue 
with a swaggering gait, which she had never known before, 
and which very much astonished her. He met no one on 
his way ; and Avhen he reached the house he went modestly 
round to a side- door leading to the billiard-room, through 
the window of which he observed no less a personage than 
Mr Banks, Sir Charles's man, who was by himself, with his 
coat off and a cue in his hand trying a few hazards. Mr 
Effingham gave a sharp tap at the glass, which made Mr 
Banks start guiltily, drop his cue, and resume his garment; 
but when he looked up and saw who had caused him this 
fright, he waxed very wroth and said, "Hallo! is it you? 
what do you want now ? " 

His tone did not at all suit Mr Effingham, who replied 
sharply, " Your master ; go and tell him I'm here." 

" He ain't up yet," said Mr Banks. 

" Did you hear what I said ? Go and tell him I'm here." 

" Did you hear what I said, that Sir Charles ain't stir- 
rin' ? " 

" It'll be as much as your place is worth, my man, if you 
don't do Avhat I tell you. Have I been here before, or 'ave 
I not ? Have I been let in to him at once before, or 'ave 
I not? Does he see ine d'rectly you tell him who's waitin', 
or does he not? Now — go." 

This speech had such an effect upon Mr Banks, who re- 
membered that the little man only spoke the truth in his 
statement of the readiness with which Sir Charles always 
saw him, that he opened the door, showed Mr Effingham 
into the billiard-room (which was decorated with empty 
tumblers, fragments of lemon-peel, tobacco-ash, and other 
remnants of the preceding night, and smelt powerfully of 
stale tobacco), suggested that he should "knock the balls 
about a bit," and went up to tell his master. 

When he returned he said, " He's just finished drcssin'. 



222 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

and I'm to take you up in five minutes Tou seem quite 
a favourite of his." 

Mr Effingham laughed. " Yes," he said ; " he and I un- 
derstand one another." 

Mr Banks looked at him for a moment, and then said, 
" "Was you ever in the Pacific ? " 

" In the what ? " 

" The Pacific." 

Mr Effingham changed colour. He did not half like 
this. He thought it was the name of some prison, and 
that the valet had found him out. But he put a bold face 
on and said, " What's the Pacific ? " 

" Ocean," said Mr Banks. 

" No," said Mr Effingham, " certainly not — nothing of 
the sort." 

" Not when you and he," pointing to the ceiling, " was 
together ? " 

" Certainly not," 

" Ah ! " said Mr Banks, " kept at home, I suppose ; it 
ain't so dangerous or such hard work at home, is it ? 
■ — Portsmouth and round there ? " 

" It's hard enough at Portsmouth, from what I've heard," 
said Mr Effingham ; " that diggin' away at Southsea's 
dreadful work." 

" Diggin' aboard ship ! " said Banks in astonishment. 

" How do you mean ' aboard ship ' ? " said the other. 

" Why, I'm talkin' of when you and him was on board 
the — what was it ?— you know — Albatross." 

" Oh ! " said Mr Effingham, greatly relieved, and burst- 
ing into a fit of laughter ; " we went everywhere then. And 
that's where I learned something I don't mind teaching 
yon." 

" What's that ? " 

" Never to keep Sir Charles waiting. The five minutes 
is up." 

Mr Banks looked half-annoyed, but his companion had 
already risen, so he made the best of it, pretended to laugh, 
and showed Mr Effingham into Sir Charles Mitford's pri- 
vate snuggery. 

Sir Charles was drinking a cup of coffee. He looked 



CHECKMATE. 223 

eagerly at Mr Effiugham, and when Banks had closed the 
door, said : 

" By the expression of your face I should say you bring- 
good news. In two words — do you, or do you not ? " 

" In two words — I do." 

Mitford set down his cup. Through his mind rushed 
one thought — the spy over his flirtation with Mrs Ham- 
mond was removed ! henceforward he could sit with her, 
talk to her, look at her, with the consciousness that his 
words would reach her ear alone, that his actions would not 
be overlooked. His face flushed with anticipated pleasure 
as he said : 

" How was it managed ? Did she make much resist- 
ance ? " 

" Well, it wasn't a very easy job, and that's the fact. 
I've seen many women as could be got over with much less 
trouble. You see the party seems to be in very comfort- 
able quarters here, — all right to eat and drink, and not too 
much to do, and that sort of thing." 

" Well, what then ? " 

" Why, when parties are in that way they naturally don't 
like movin' Besides, there's another strong reason I've 
found out why that young woman don't want to go." 

"And that is— " 

" She's uncommon fond of you. Ah, you may shake 
your head, but I'm sure of it." 

" If she made you believe that, Mr — Effingham," said 
Sir Charles with a very grim smile, " I'm afraid she's got 
the better of you altogether." 

" Has she, by Jove ! No, no. The proof of the puddin's 
in the eatin', Sir Charles ; and whether I've done the trick 
or not you'll find out before I've finished. Any how, I'm 
satisfied." 

" Well, as you say that, and as the payment of the fifty 
pounds depends upon the ' trick being done,' as you call it, 
I suppose before you've finished your story I shall be 
satisfied too." 

" What was I saying ? Oh, about her being nuts on 
you still, — O yes, — and I had to talk to her about that, 
and tell her it wouldn't do now you was married, and, in 



224 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



fact, that that was one of the great reasons for her to go, 
as parties had observed her feelin's. That seemed to touch 
her, — for her pride's awful, — and she began to give way, 
and at last, after a long palaver, she said she'd go, though 
not before I — " 

" Beg your pardon, Sir Charles," said Banks, opening the 
door ; " Mrs Hammond, Sir Charles, wishes to speak to 
you, Sir Charles : she's here at the door." 

" Show her in, by all means," said Mitford, turning to 
Effingham and laying his finger on his lips ; then to him, 
sotto voce, " Keep your mouth shut ! " 

" I'm very sorry to trouble you, Sir Charles," said Mrs 
Hammond, entering hurriedly, with a slight bow to the 
stranger and a glance of astonishment at his appearance ; 
" but I will detain you only an instant. Have you heard 
anything of Miss Gillespie ? " 

■'' Of Miss Gillespie ? I, Mrs Hammond ? Not a word. 
"What has happened ? " 

" Of course you haven't, but the most extraordinary thing ! 
This morning Miss Gillespie did not come into Alice's 
room as usual ; so the child dressed by herself, and went to 
Miss Gillespie's room. She tried the door, and found it 
fast ; so, concluding that her governess was ill, — she's sub- 
ject to headaches, I believe, — Alice went down to breakfast. 
Afterwards she tried Miss Gillespie's door again, but with 
no better success ; and then she came to me. I sent for 
Gifford, Mr Hammond's man, you know ; and after calling 
out once or twice, he burst the door open ; we all rushed 
in, and found the room empty." 

" Empty ! " cried Sir Charles. 

" The devil ! " burst out Mr Effingham. " I beg your 
pardon ! AVhat an odd thing ! " 

" Empty," repeated Mrs Hammond. " The bed hadn't 
been slept in ; her boxes were open, and some of the 
things had been taken out ; while on the dressing-table was 
this note addressed to me." 

She handed a small slip of paper to Sir Charles, who 
opened it and read aloud : 

" You will never see me again. Search for me will be 
useless. B. G.' ? 



CHKl'OlATE. Z'lo 

'■ I'e.s," said Mrs Hammond, " she's gone. ' Search for 
me will be useless.' So provoking too ; just the sort of 
person one liked to have about one ; and I had got quite 
accustomed to her and all that . ' Never see me again ; ' 1 
declare it's horribly annoying. Now, Sir Charles, I want 
to ask your advice : what would you do ? Would you 
have people sent after her in all directions, eh ? " 

'• Well, 'pon my word, I don't see how you can do that,' 
said Sir Charles. " She hasn't taken anything of yours, I 
suppose, — no, of course not, — so, you see, she has a right 
to go away when she likes. Needn't give a month's warn- 
ing, eh ? " 

'■ Eight to go away ! Well, I don't know, — I suppose 
she has — and I suppose I haven't any right to stop her ; 
but it is annoying ; and yet it's highly ridiculous, isn't it v " 
What on earth can have driven her away ? Nobody rude 
to her, I should think ; she wasn't that sort of person. 
Well, I won't bore you any more now about it, particularly as 
you're busy. We shall meet at luncheon, and then we can 
talk further over this unpleasant affair." And with a smile 
to Sir Charles, aud another slight bow to Mr Effingham, she 
left the room. 

' : Well, you certainly have done your work excellently, 
Mr Effingham," said Sir Charles, as soon as the door had 
closed ; " in the most masterly manner ! " 

" Yes, it ain't bad, I think," said Mr Effingham, with a 
ghastly attempt at a grin ; " I told you it was all square." 

' : Yes ; but I had no notion it would come about so 
quickly." 

" Why, I hadn't half time to tell you about it. How- 
ever, there it is, done, cut, and dried, — -all finished except 
the payment ; aud I'm ready for that whenever you like." 

'■Our agreement was, that the cheque was to be sent to 
London, to an address which you gave me — " 

" Yes, but as I'm here, I may as well take it myself. 
You haven't got it in notes or gold, have you ? It would 
be handier." 

" No, not sufficient ; but they would change my cheque 
at the bank in Torquay, I've no doubt." 

" No, thank you, never mind, it ain't worth the trouble, 

1.5 



226 EUNNINO THE GAUNTLET. 

I shall have to go to town, I suppose, and I shan't want it till 
I get there — that is, if you can lend me a couple of sove- 
reigns just to help me on my way. Thank you ; much 
obliged. Now, you've got my address, and you know where 
to find me when you want me ; and you may depend on not 
seein' me for a very long time. Good morning to you." 

He took the cheque and the sovereigns and put them in 
his waistcoat-pocket, made a clumsy bow, and was gone. 
Then Sir Charles Mitford rose from his chair and walked to 
the window, radiant with delight. It was all clear before 
him now ; the incubus was removed, and he was free to 
carry out his projects. 

Mr Effingham strode down the avenue, switching his 
stick and muttering : 

" Done ! sold ! swindled ! " he exclaimed ; " regularly 
roped, — that's what I am ! It was lucky I kept my face 
before the Bart., or I should never have collared the cheque ; 
but that's all right. So far he thinks it was my doin', and 
forked out accordin' That's the only bright part of it. 
To think that a yellow-faced meek-lookin' thing like that 
should have taken me in to that toon ! "What can her game 
be ? To get clear of the lot of us ? — that's it ! Pretendin' 
to be all square with me, and then cuttin' and runnin' and 
shakin' it all oil'! Oh, a deep un, a regular deep un! Now 
what's my game ? After her as hard as I can. Where 
will she make for r 1 London, I shpuld think, — try hidin' 
somewhere. Ah ! if she does that, I'll ferret her out. It'll 
be a quiet place that I don't hunt her up in, with the means 
I have for workin' a search. Here's two skivs to the good 
from the Bart. I'll meet the dog-cart and get down to 
Torquay, and go up at once by the express. Hallo ! gate, 
there ! '*' 

" Why, you are in a hurry, sir ! " said the old portress, 
coming out ; " maist as pressed as the young woman as 
knocked me up at day-dawn this morning." 

" Ah ! what was that ? " said Mr Effingham, stopping 
short. 

" I would have told you this morning when you came in ; 
but you were so short and snappish ! " said the old lady. 
" She came down wi' a little passel in her hand, and knocked 



COLONEL ALSAGBE'S COUNSEL. 227 

at my door and ast for the key. And I got up to let her 
out, and there were a fly outside — Mullins's fly, and young 
Mullins to drive ; and she got in, and off they went." 

" Ay, ay ; where does Mullins live ? " 

" Just close by Mitford Arms. His father were wi' my 
father— " 

" Yes, yes ; thank you ! all right ! good-bye ! " and Mr 
Effingham rushed off up the by-lane to where he knew the 
dog-cart was waiting. 



CHAPTEK XXI. 

COLONEL ALSAGER'S COUNSEL. 



"When Laurence Alsager awoke the morning after Miss 
Gillespie's piano-performance, his thoughts immediately 
turned to the mysterious note which he had received on the 
previous evening, and he stretched out his hand and took it 
from the dressing-table, where he had placed it just before 
dropping off to sleep. He read it again and again, and 
each perusal strengthened his belief. It was written by 
Miss Gillespie — of that he had little doubt — and was in- 
tended to convey a warning of proximate clanger to Lady 
Mitford, and coimsel to him to avert this danger if possible, 
by remaining at Redmoor. It seemed further to imply that 
some protection which had hitherto been extended over her 
would necessarily be withdrawn, and that his presence was 
consequently more than ever needful. At this conclusion 
Laurence arrived ; it was but a lame and impotent one, after 
all, and he determined to seek the solution at an inter* 
view with Miss Gillespie as soon as possible. 

He was the earliest in the breakfast-room, and found a 
batch of letters lying in his accustomed place. They were 
of all kinds, — foreign letters from men whose acquaintance 
he had made abroad, and the gist of whose correspondence 
lay in an endeavour to tempt him to come out to them 



228 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



again; a business letter or two about the investment of 
some spare cash ; a line from Blab Bertram, wondering 
when L. A. was coming to town, and " what was the use of 
leaving Egypt if you stuck down in Devon ? " and a thick 
old-fashioned letter, on yellowish gilt-edged paper, sealed 
with a large seal, and directed in a bold yet tremulous hand 
— his father's. Alsager's conscience pricked him as he 
came upon this letter at the bottom of the little pile ; he 
had been two months in England, after two yeai's' absence, 
and had not yet found time to visit his father. They had 
been always very good friends ; indeed when Laurence was 
at Eton, the tie between them was of the strongest, and 
they were more like brothers than father and son. "With 
the young man's life at Oxford their relations were a little 
less intimate ; Laurence was beginning to see life with his 
coevals, and found Sir Peregrine's society a check and 
hindrance on his enjoyment. The father perceived this, and 
weakly allowed himself to be annoyed at it. He was hurt 
and jealous at his son's preference of younger companions, 
at his own inability to amuse or interest his son's friends ; 
and from that time forth there was a slight estrangement 
between them. Laurence had the enjoyment of his mother's 
fortune on coming of age, so that he was perfectly inde- 
pendent of his father ; and his joining the Guards was en- 
tirely his own doing, and to a certain extent against his 
father's wish. Sir Peregrine was of that old-fashioned 
school -which abhorred London and its ways, and thought a 
country gentleman ought to live entirely on his own estate, 
in superintending which, and in joining the sports of the 
field, he would find plenty of amusement and occupation. 
Their ideas and tastes being thus different, it was tacitly 
felt by both that they were best apart, and during the last 
few years they had not met a dozen times. Sir Peregrine's 
annual visit to London was generally made in the winter, 
when Laurence was staying with country friends; and 
Laurence found little attraction in the dozy, prosy county- 
magistrate society which the old gentleman gathered round 
him at Knockholt. 

But his conscience pricked him when he saw the old 
gentleman's letter, which had been forwarded to him from 



COLONEL A L* Adieu's COUNSEL. 229 

his club — pricked him sharply after he had opened it aud 
read as follows : 

" Knockholt, Friday. 

'• My Dear Lance, — If yon have not any very particular 
engagements, I think it would be as well if you were to 
come down here for a day or two. There are some things 
I want to talk over with you, and I think the sooner our 
business is done the better. I had a nasty fall a fortnight 
ago, when I was out with Lord Hawkshaw's pack ; and 
though Galton says it's nothing, I was a good deal shaken 
at the time, and feel it has jarred me more than they think ; 
for I have an odd kind of all-overish pain, which I can't 
explain to them, and can't account for to myself. Not that 
I am going to die, that I know of; but one does not fall 
lightly when one weighs fifteen stone, nor get over a cropper 
quickly when one is sixty-seven years old. So, my dear 
Lance, put up with the old house and the old man for a few 
days, and come. I have a surprise for you. — Your affec- 
tionate father, P A. 

" P.S. — Captain Freeman saw you looking out of the 
club-window when he was in London in January. He says 
you had a beard like a billy-goat. For God's sake, my dear 
Lance, go to a barber before I see you ! I hate all such 
foreign affectations. P. A." 

Laurence looked grave over the letter, but could not 
help smiling at the postscript, so characteristic of his 
father. He did not at all like the 'aspect of aft'airs at 
Knockholt ; his father was evidently far more hurt than 
either the doctors imagined or he himself would allow. 
His ward, Miss Manningtree, and her governess, resided 
with the old gentleman ; but Laurence knew too little of 
either to feel confidence in their capacity, their care, or their 
judgment in the matter of medical advice. They might 
think Galton all-sufficient and infallible ; he didn't. He 
would go down at once, at least as soon as he had learned 
from Miss Gillespie what really was meant by her myste- 
rious letter. He had been too long dallying at Capri ; but 
now that duty called him away, he would obey cheerfully 
By the time he had finished his letter and formed his reso- 



230 BDNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

lution, Captain Bligli had entered the room, and had plunged 
deeply into his breakfast, which he took standing, now 
making a dive at the toast-rack, now impaling a bloater, 
now walking round and pouring out a cup of tea ; for there 
were no ladies present, and the captain was in a hurry, 
having much business on hand. 

" Morning, Alsager," said the Captain, when Laurence 
looked up. " Queer start this, isn't it ? " 

" What ? I'm only just down ; I've seen nobody and 
heard nothing." 

" Oh, about that girl that sung last night, — Mrs Ham- 
mond's governess. What's her name? " 

"Miss Gillespie?" 

" Ah, that's she ! Wouldn't have thought it of her — 
would you ? " 

" What's she done ? " 

" Done ! Bolted, that's all ! — belted slick away, no one 
knows where ! " 

" What on earth for ? " 

" No one knows that either. Bummest thing is, that 
she hasn't taken anything with her — anything of anybody 
else's, I mean. Now, if she'd walked off with some of that 
little Hammond woman's swell clothes, or jool'ry, one could 
understand it ; but she's left a lot of her own behind." 

" Did she give no hint of this ? Has she left no explan- 
ation ? " 

" Well, I don't know about explanation. She's left a 
note for Mrs Hammond, which I've got in my pocket. 
Mrs Hammond gave it to Mitford, and he sent for me and 
handed it over, and asked me what I thought of it." 

" It's not private, I suppose. May I look at it ? " 

" By all means — nothing private about it. Can't con- 
ceive why Mitford gave it to me. I can do nothing with 
it." So saying Captain Bligh took out the little scrap of 
paper from his waistcoat pocket, and handed it to Alsager. 

There was no longer the least doubt about Laurence's 
mysterious correspondent. Both notes were in the same 
hand-writing. 

At luncheon that day Miss Gillespie's disappearance was 



COLONEL ALSAGER's COUNSEL. 231 

the principal theme of conversation, and many and various 
were the comments it evoked. Lady Mitford seemed a 
little scandalized at the circumstance ; but Mrs Hammond, 
her first astonishment over, treated it very lightly. She had 
always thought Miss Gillespie a " curious person," she said ; 
there was always something " odd " about her. Very likely, 
when they got back to town, they would find she would 
return to them. Perhaps, after all, the reason of her flight 
was that she was a little bored in the country. And then 
Mrs Hammond forgot all about Miss Gillespie in her de- 
light at having Sir Charles Mitford sitting next her again, 
at finding him paying her little attentions and compliments, 
talking to her in a dropped voice, and regarding her with 
deep tender glances, just as he had done in the first days of 
her visit to Redmoor. She delighted in all this, and her 
delight was increased when she marked the grave gloom on 
Laurence Alsager's face, as she shot a glance of saucy 
triumph across at him. Then he guessed the meaning of 
Miss Gillespie's note more thoroughly than he had yet 
done. She had had some hold either on Mrs Hammond or 
on Sir Charles ; that was gone, and he alone was left to do 
his best to keep them in check. And what could he do ? 
Any overt act of his would be misconstrued by Mrs Ham- 
mond, and turned to her own purposes, while over Mitford 
he had not the smallest power. What could he do ? Had 
Lord Dollamore given any sign of intending to persecute 
Lady Mitford with his attentions, Laurence thought that 
his staying in the house might be of some use ; but Dolla- 
more had hitherto been perfectly respectful. So Alsager 
determined that he would remain a couple of days longer, 
and then start off for Knockholt. 

After luncheon a proposal was made to go and see some 
new horses which Captain Bligh had inspected when last in 
Torquay, and which he thought might be obtained as bar- 
gains. So most of the party adjourned to the stable-yard, 
where these horses had been brought ; and the visit ended 
in a pair of them being put to, and Sir Charles and Mrs 
Hammond mounting the phaeton to which they were har- 
nessed. The horses were young and fresh, and plunged a 
great deal at starting ; but Sir Charles had them well in 



-•->-' RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

hand, and with his companion by his side and a groom in 
the back-seat, went flying down the avenue. It was full an 
hour before they returned, and Sir Charles's verdict on the 
pair was that they were too hot to hold. He had had all 
his work, he said, to keep them at all within bounds. Mrs 
Hammond looked flushed and elated ; but she went straight 
up to Lady Mitford, and told her how she had enjoyed the 
drive, and was full of praises of Sir Charles's powers of 
coachmanship). 

That evening Sir Charles took Mrs Hammond in to the 
dining-room, and addressed his conversation principally to 
her. He drank a great deal of wine both with and after 
dinner, and was in more boisterous spirits than any of his 
friends had yet seen him. "When they went into the 
drawing-room he made straight for Mrs Hammond's chair, 
and there he remained the whole evening, talking to her in 
a lowered tone, and regarding her with glances the fire of 
which had by no means been subdued by the quantity of 
claret he had drunk. Poor Greorgie ! The events of this 
day, culminating as they Avere, had totally upset her, and 
had reduced her very much to the same condition as when 
she begged Alsager to be her charioteer to Egremont 
Priory. There could be no mistake about it now. Surely 
it was a flagrant case ; and the colour flushed in her cheeks 
as she saw Mrs Masters's shoulder-shrugs and marked Lord 
Dollamore's ill-disguised cynical manner. Poor Georgie ! 
She asked Mrs Charteris to sing, and sat and listened to 
her as usual, and thanked her at the end of the performance ; 
and she chatted with the Tyrrell girls, and she took the 
deepest interest in Mrs Masters's embroidery, — and all the 
time her heart was sick within her, and she kept stealing 
glances at the couple seated in the embrasure of the win- 
dow, with their heads so nearly touching. All present 
noticed her state of mind ; but no one understood it or 
pitied it like Laurence Alsager, Avho began to confess to 
himself that what Dollamore had prophesied at the club was 
undoubtedly coming true, so far as Mitford was concerned ; 
and did not the wife's future, even in Lord Dollamore's 
prophecy, hinge upon the husband's conduct ? It was a 
most horrible shame ; but how on earth w r as he to protest 



to 



COLONEL AliSAGER'S COUNSEL. 23o 

against it ? Ho had no position to enable him to do any- 
thing of the kind. There was only one thing that he could 
do, and that was to speak to Laura Hammond. He could 
do that ; it might not be of much use, but he would do it. 

So. accordingly, the next morning after breakfast Colonel 
Alsager sent to Mrs Hammond a polite little note, in which 
he presented his compliments, and requested the pleasure of 
a few minutes' conversation ; and to which a verbal answer 
was returned to the effect that Mrs Hammond would be de- 
lighted to see Colonel Alsager, if he could come up at once. 
He followed the lady's-maid, and found Mrs Hammond in 
the boudoir, dressed in her habit and hat. She received him 
with great cordiality. 

" I am so sorry to have sent what may have seemed a 
peremptory message, Colonel Alsager," she said ; but the 
fact is, Sir Charles has been round here just now, and we 
have arranged a little riding-party, — he and I, and Emily 
Tyrrell, and Captain Bligh, and Mr Somers, and one or 
two more ; and I promised to be ready by eleven." 

" Make no excuses, pray," said Laurence, in a hard dry 
tone. " I won't detain you, as your time's valuable, by any 
preamble. I will simply ask, are you determined to persist 
in your present course ? " 

" In what course, my dear Colonel Alsager ? " 

" In bringing destruction on a household, Laura Ham- 
mond ! In blighting the happiness of a young wife, and 
spreading snares for a foolish husband ! In renderingyour- 
self conspicuous, and your host contemptible ! Do I speak 
plainly enough ? '' 

'■ Scarcely," said she with a little smile ; " for though you 
insult me, and give way to your own rage, you do not con- 
descend to — or you dare not — explain your motives. Don't 
think that I am weak enough to imagine that you are 
jealous of me, Laurence. I know you too well for that. I 
know that whatever command I may have had over you is 
past and gone. But perhaps the passion, the caprice that I 
had for vou — call it what you will — continues. Suppose it 
does ? Suppose the sight of you, the meeting with you 
after so long a separation, has renewed the dormant flame ? 
Tou scorn me, and I see you prostrate at the feet of a 



284 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

sweetly pretty piece of propriety and innocence — don't in- 
terrupt me, please — who then becomes my rival ? Revenge 
is sweet, especially to women, you know. This child of the 
fields makes herself my rival, — I make myself hers ! I show 
to you and others, that if you care for me no longer, there 
are others who will. I show to her and others, that if she 
is preferred to me by one I — yes, I love, — I am preferred 
to her by one she loves. As yet I have never run second 
for anything for which I've entered, Colonel Alsager, and I 
don't intend to do so now." 

" Tou are arguing on utterly false premises, — you are 
talking worse than nonsense. Between me and the lady to 
whom you allude there is nothing. Tou need not smile in 
that way. I swear it ! She is as pure as — " 

" Oh, pray spare me ! Don't fall into raptures about her 
purity, — there's a good creature. Dear me, dear me ! this 
must be a very bad case, when a man like Colonel Alsager 
takes a poetical view of his lady-love, and talks about her 
purity." 

" I came to ask you to abandon this shameless flirtation, 
Laura Hammond, for the sake of our old friendship, — as 
an act of kindness to me. Tour reply is mockery and 
ridicule. I may use other means to bring about what I 
want." 

" Ah, you threaten ! Then I shall certainly get Mr Ham- 
mond to fight you ! He was out once at Nusserabad, or 
Hylunjee, or some such place, I believe. And we can prop 
him up on his crutches, and get his man to hold him, and 
I've no doubt he'd be strong enough to fire a pistol. — ISTo," 
she added, suddenly changing her tone, " don't threaten, 
and don't thwart me ; else let our innocent young friend 
look to herself. I'll break her heart, and then I'll spoil her 
name, — that's all. And now, I really must run away. Sir 
Charles will have been waiting for me full ten minutes." 
She touched the brim of her hat, in salute, with the handle 
of her riding-whip, gathered up her habit with her other 
hand, and left the room. 

" And that is the woman," said Laurence, looking after 
her, " for whom I nearly broke my heart ; whose rejection 
of my suit caused me to leave England, — intending, hoping, 



COLONEL ALSAGER'S COUNSEL. 235 

never to return. Great Heavens ! once in that state, what 
idiots Ave become ! Think of this fool flinging away a pearl 
of price,, reputation, decency, — and all for that ! Think of 
that poor child his wife having pinned her faith and her af- 
fections on to such a shallow oaf ! There can be no doubt- 
about Miss Gillespie's meaning now ; no doubt that, partly 
from innate devilry, partly from pique, Laura Hammond will 
pursue her scheme to the very end. And I am powerless 
to interfere." 

He went down to the library with the intention of writ- 
ing a letter to his father announcing his immediate arrival ; 
but as he entered the room, he saw through the deep bay- 
window fronting him, which looked down upon the terrace, 
the cavalcade departing down the avenue. At some con- 
siderable distance behind the others rode Sir Charles Mit- 
ford and Mrs Hammond ; and he was bending towards her, 
and talking in an apparently impressive manner. 

Laurence shrugged his shoulders and turned away in dis- 
gust ; but he had not reached the writing-table before he 
heard a deep sigh, succeeded by a passionate sobbing, and 
turning quickly round, saw Lady Mitford leaning against 
the window and half-hidden by the heavy curtains, — her face 
buried in her hands, her whole frame convulsed with the 
violence of her grief. Laurence would have retreated from 
the room, but his footsteps had attracted her attention ; 
and as she looked their eyes met. He at once approached 
her, saying, " You will believe me when I say that it was 
quite by chance I entered the room, Lady Mitford, — 
without the least idea that you were here ; but I am 
glad now that I came, for you are, I fear, very unwell ; 
and—" 

" It is nothing," she said, with a strong but ineffectual 
effort to resume her usual calmness ; " it is nothing, indeed, 
Colonel Alsager ; a little silly woman's weakness — nothing 
more. I am over-tired, I think ; we have been up later the 
last few nights, you know, and I am so totally unused to 
dissipation even of the mildest kind." 

" You will be better when you return to London, per- 
haps," said Laurence ; " I have a strong notion that the 
marsh on this great Eedmoor is anything but a sanitary 



236 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



adjunct to the property. I should really advise your get- 
ting back to town as soon as possible, now Parliament has 
met ; and soon everybody will be there." 

In London, Laurence thought, Mrs Hammond will at all 
events be out of the house, and in other gaiety there might 
be a chance of Mitford's getting rid of his infatuation. 

" Oh, I'm frightened at the very thought of returning to 
town ; and yet, down here, there are — I mean — it's — how 
very silly of me ! — you must excuse me, Colonel Alsager, I 
am anything but strong ; " and poor Greorgie's tears began 
to flow again. 

" So I see," said Laurence, in a very gentle tone. She 
had seated herself in one corner of a low brown morocco- 
leather couch that stood across the window. Hitherto he 
had been standing, but he now placed himself at the other 
end of the sofa. 

" I think," said he, bending forward, and speaking in the 
same low earnest voice, — " I think, dear Lady Mitford, that 
you will be disposed to give me credit for taking a deep 
and friendly interest in you." 

She looked at him through the tears that still stood in 
her splendid eyes — a frank, trusting, honest glance ; and as 
he hesitated, she said, " I know it — I have proved it." 

" Then, though your sex is taught to believe that mine is 
thoroughly selfish and heartless, — never moving without 
some end for its own benefit in view, — you still believe that 
what I am about to say to you is dictated simply by the 
hope to serve you, the desire to see you happy ? " 

She bowed her head, but did not speak this time. Her 
tears were gone, but there was a painful look of anxiety in 
her eyes, and the spasmodic motion of the muscles of the 
mouth betrayed her agitation. 

" You are very young," he continued, " and wholly un- 
acquainted with the world. I am certainly past the fresh- 
ness of youth, and I should think there are not many of my 
age more thoroughly versed in the world's ways. And one 
of its ways, dear Lady Mitford, one of its never-failing and 
most repulsive ways, is to rob life of the glamour with which 
youth invests it ; to lift up a corner of the silken curtain 
of the fairy temple and show the rough bare boards and 



COLONEL ALSAGER's COUNSEL. 2o7 

wooden trestles behind it ; to throw stumbling-blocks in tho 
paths of happiness, and to drag down those now falling to a 
lower depth ; to poison truth's well, to blacken innocence, 
and to sow distrust and misery broadcast,— these are among 
the world's ways. To be pure, noble, and beloved, is at 
once to provoke the world's hatred. Is it any wonder then 
that some of its emissaries are plotting against you ? " 

A faint blush overspread her cheeks as she said, " I have 
done nothing to provoke them." 

"Pardon me," said Laurence, "you have offended in the 
three ways I have just pointed out : there are few who 
offer such a combination of offences. And the world will 
have revenge for all. To besmirch your purity, to lower 
the nobleness of your nature, are tasks which as yet it dare 
not attempt. But to prevent your being beloved, — by 
those whose love you have a right to claim, — is apparently, 
not really, far more easily done." 

" It is, indeed," cried poor Georgie, mournfully ; " it is, 
indeed." 

" I said apparently, not really," continued Laurence. "To 
defeat such an attempt as this is the easiest thing in the 
world, if you only have the savoir faire, and will use the 
weapons in your armoury. Even in the most purely pas- 
toral times, love in marriage was not all that was requisite 
for happiness. If Phyllis had done nothing but sit at 
Corydon's feet and worship him — if she had not been his 
companion and friend as well as his wife, — now talking to 
him about the crop in the forty-acre pasture, now telling 
him of the pigs eating the beech-nuts under that wide-spread- 
ing tree where that lazy Tityrus used to lie in the summer ; 
moreover, if Corydon had not had his farm and flock to at- 
tend to, — he would at a very early period of their married 
life have left her solitary, while he sported with Amaryllis 
in the shade, or played with the tangle of Nesera's 
hair." 

He stopped as he marked her half-puzzled, half-frightened 
look. "Dear, dear Lady Mitford," he continued, "let me drop 
parable and mystery, and speak plainly to you. I am going 
away to-morrow or the next day, and should probably have 
left with this unsaid ; but the accidental sight of yonr sor- 



238 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



row has emboldened me to speak, and — and you know I 
would say nothing which you should not hear." 

At the last words she seemed reassured, and with a little 
effort she said, " Speak on, pray, Colonel Alsager ; I know 
I can trust you entirely." 

"Thank you," he said, with a very sweet smile ; " I am very 
proud of that belief. Now listen : you married when you 
were a child, and you have not yet put away childish things. 
Tour notion of married life is a childish romance, and you 
are childishly beginning to be frightened because a cloud 
has come over it. In his wife a man wants a companion as 
well as a plaything, and some one who will amuse as well 
as worship him. Your husband is essentially a man of this 
kind ; his resources within himself are of the very smallest 
kind ; he cares very little for field-sports, and he conjugates 
the verb s'ennuyer throughout the entire day. Consequently, 
and not unnaturally, he becomes readily charmed when any 
one amuses him and takes him out of himself, — more espe- 
cially if that some one be pretty and otherwise agreeable. 
Why should not you be that some one ? Why should not 
you, dropping — pardon me for saying it — a little of the 
visible worship with which you now regard him, — why 
should not you be his constant companion, riding with him, 
making him drive you out, planning schemes for his amuse- 
ment ? If you once do this, and get him to look upon you 
as his companion as well as his wife, there will be no more 
cause for tears, Lady Mitford, depend upon it." 

" Do you think so? — do you really think so ? Oh, I 
would give anything for that ! " 

" And get him to London quickly, above all things. Tou 
are to have your opera-box, I heard you say ; and there is 
the Park ; and in this your first season you will never be 
allowed to be quiet for an instant." 

" Yes ; I think you're right. I will ask Charley to go 
back to town at once. There will be no difficulty, I think. 
The Charterises are gone ; Mrs Masters and the Tyrrells 
go to-morrow ; and Captain Bligh is going to Scotland to 
look at some shooting-quarters for Charley in the autumn. 
There are only — only the Hammonds." 

" I reallv do not think it necessary to take them into 



COLONEL ALSAGER'S COUNSEL. 239 

account in making your arrangements," said Laurence. Be- 
sides, unless I'm very much mistaken, when Mrs Hammond 
finds the house emptying, Mr Hammond's bronchitis will 
either be so much better that there will be no harm in his 
going to town, or so much worse that there will be impera- 
tive necessity for his consulting a London physician." 

" And now, Colonel Alsager, how can I stifficiently thank 
you for all this kind advice ? " said G-eorgie hesitatingly. 

" By acting up to it, dear Lady Mitford. I hope to hear 
the best account of your health and spirits." 

" To hear ! Will you not be in London ? " 

" Not just at present. I am at last really going to my 
father's, and shall remain there a few weeks. But I shall 
hear about you from Bertram, and when I return I shall 
come and see you." 

" There will be no one more welcome," said she, frankly 
putting out her hand. 

Just at that moment the door opened, and Mr Banks 
advanced and handed a closed envelope to Alsager, saying, 
" From the railway, Colonel." 

It was a telegraphic message ; and as such things were 
rare in those days, Laurence's heart sunk within him before 
he broke the envelope. It was from Dr Galton at Knock- 
holt, and said, 

" Lose no time in coming. Sir Peregrine has had a paraly- 
tic stroke." 

Half an hour afterwards Laurence was in a phaeton 
spinning to the railway. His thoughts were full of self- 
reproach at his having hitherto neglected to go to his father ; 
but ever across them came a vision of G-eorgie Mitford in 
the passion of her grief. " Ah, poor child," he said to him- 
self, " how lovely she looked, and what a life she has in 
prospect ! I am glad I have left her, for it was beginning 
to grow desperate — and yet how I long, oh how I long to 
be at her side again ! " 



240 



CHAPTER XXII. 



KNOCKHOLT PARK. 



The old Lome which Laurence Alsager had so long slighted, 
and to which his heart suddenly turned with a strange wild 
longing, almost powerful enough, he thought, to annihilate 
the space between it and Redmoor, had seen many genera- 
tions of Alsagers beneath its peaked and gabled roof. The 
house stood in a fine park, and occupied a commanding 
situation on the slope of a well- wooded hill. The features 
of the scenery were such as are familiar in the midland 
counties : rich and fertile beauty, with uplands ankle-deep 
in meadow-grass, tall patriarchal trees, which stood in 
solemn unending conclave, group by group or singly, with 
benignant outstretched arms, and wide-spread mantle of 
green and russet ; bright shallow streams, flashing under 
the sunbeams, and rippling darkly in the shade. All the 
land about the picturesque and irregular old house was laid 
out, partly by nature and partly by art, on ornamental 
principles ; and away to the right and left stretched a wide 
expanse of farm-lands, Avhose aspect suggested a practical 
knowledge of the science of husbandry, and a satisfactory 
return in profit. The house was surrounded by a broad 
stone-terrace, bounded by a low balustrade, and flanked at 
each of the corners by a large stone-vase containing flowers, 
which varied with the season, but were never missing from 
these stately jardinieres. These vases were tended, in com- 
mon with the formal flower-gar deu and the particular pet 
parterre which she called " her own," by Helen Manning- 
tree, the orphan ward of Sir Peregrine Alsager, whom Lau- 
rence remembered as a quiet pretty little girl, who had 
been frank and free with him in her childhood, timid and 
reserved when he had last seen her, just before he had been 
driven abroad by the furies of disappointment and wounded 
pride, and whom he was now to meet again, a graceful, 
gracious, well- disciplined, and attractive woman. 



KNOCKHOLT PARK. 241 

Knoekholt Park was one of those rare places which pre- 
sent a perfect combination of luxury and comfort to the 
beholder, and impress the latter clement of their constitu- 
tion upon the resident visitor. Bien etre seemed to reign 
there ; and the very peacocks which strutted upon the ter- 
race, and tapped at the dining-room window as soon as Sir 
Peregrine had taken his accustomed seat at the head of the 
long table, seemed less restless in their vanity and brighter 
in their plumage than their confreres of the neighbouring 
gentlemen's seats. The brute creation had fine times of it 
at Knoekholt Park, except, of course, such of their number 
as came under the denomination of vermin ; and those Sir 
Peregrine was too good a farmer, to say nothing of his be- 
ing too enthusiastic a sportsman, to spare. Horses were 
in good quarters in the stables and the paddocks of Knock- 
holt Park ; and well-to-do clogs were to be found every- 
where, the kennel and the dining-room included. Sir 
Peregrine had the liking for animals to be observed in all 
kindly natures which are solitary without being studious, 
aud which affords to such natures a subtle pleasure, a 
sympathy which does not jar with their pride, a com- 
panionship which does not infringe upon their exclusive- 
ness. 

Sir Peregrine Alsager was essentially a solitary man, 
though he hunted pretty regularly and shot a little ; though 
he fulfilled the duties of county hospitality with resignation, 
which county perceptions mistook for alacrity ; and though 
he associated as much as most resident country gentlemen 
with the inmates of his house. These inmates were Helen 
Manningtree and her ci-devant governess, Mrs Chisholm, a 
ladylike accomplished person, and a distant relative of Sir 
Peregrine, who had offered her a home with him when the 
charge of Helen had devolved upon him, almost simultane- 
ously with the death of Mrs Chisholm's husband, — an over- 
worked young curate, who had fallen a victim to an 
epidemic disease, in consequence of the prevalence of which 
in the parish his rector had found it necessary to remove 
himself and his family to a more salubrious climate, but had 
not found it necessary to procure any assistance for the 
curate. They were pleasant inmates, but scarcely interest- 

16 



242 EUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

ing, — would hardly have been so to a younger man ; and 
there was a certain reserve in Sir Peregrine's manner, 
though it never lacked kindness, and was distinguished for 
its courtesy and consideration, which maintained their rela- 
tive positions quite unchanged. A young girl would have 
been an unintelligible creature to Sir Peregrine, even if she 
had been his own daughter ; and he contented himself with 
taking care that all Helen's personal and intellectual wants 
were amply supplied, and all her tastes consulted and grati- 
fied : he left the reading of the enigma to others, or was 
content that it should remain unread. 

Life at Knockholt Park had rolled on very smoothly on 
the whole, until the accident which recalled his son to his 
neglected home had befallen Sir Peregrine ; and if the 
master of the fine old house and the fine old estate had had 
a good deal of loneliness, some bitterness, not a little wistful 
haggard remembrance and yearning regret, a sense of dis- 
cordance where he longed for harmony, with a dishearten- 
ing conviction that he had not the faculties requisite for 
setting it right, and would never find them in this world, 
among his daily experiences, the decent and decorous man- 
tle of pride had hidden these discrepancies in the general 
order of things from every perception but his own. If the 
hale old gentleman, on whom every eye looked with respect, 
and who had filled his place with honour all the days of his 
life, had unseen companions in those walks shared visibly 
by his dog alone ; if the handsome stately library where he 
sat o' nights, and read all that a country gentleman is ever 
expected to read, was haunted now and then by a shadowy 
presence, by a beckoning hand ; if the gentle whisper of a 
voice, whose music was heard in its full melody among the 
angels only, came oftener and more often, as " the tender 
grace of a day that was dead " receded more and more into 
the past, and stirred the slow pulses of the old man's heart, 
— he was all the happier, with such solemn happiness as re- 
membrance and anticipation can confer, and no one was the 
wiser. 

If " county society " in those parts had been brighter as 
a collective body, or if the individuals who composed it had 
had clearer notions of military life, and the obligations of a 



KNOCKHOLT PARK. 243 

lieutenant-colonel, the long absence of Laurence Alsager 
from his father's house might have been made a subject of 
ill-natured and wondering comment ; but the particular 
county to Avhich Knockholt and its master belonged was 
rather remarkable for obtuseness, and there was a certain 
something about the old baronet which rendered it impossi- 
ble to say unpleasant things in his presence, and difficult 
even to say them in his absence ; and so Laurence Alsager 
escaped almost scot-free. Helen Manningtree felt some in- 
dignant wonder occasionally at the only son's prolonged ab- 
sence from his father — indignant, be it observed, on Sir 
Peregrine's account, not on her own. Helen was very 
sensible, and as little vain as it was possible for a nice- 
looking and attractive girl to be, without attaining a painful 
height of perfection ; and so she did not wonder that Lau- 
rence Alsager had not been induced by curiosity to see her 
— of whom Sir Peregrine had doubtless frequently spoken 
to him — to visit his old home. Her life had been too sim- 
ple and well regulated to enable her to comprehend an 
estrangement between father and son arising from diversity 
of sentiment alone ; but it had also been so devoid of strong 
affections, of vivid emotions, that she was not likely to re- 
gard Laurence Alsager's conduct from a particularly ele- 
vated point of view. It was wrong, she thought, and odd ; 
but if Laurence had gone to Knockholt at stated periods, 
and had conformed outwardly to filial conventionalities, 
Helen would have been the last person in the world to 
perceive that anything was wanting to the strength and 
sweetness of the relationship between Sir Peregrine and his 
only son. 

Mrs Chisholm — a woman who had known love and be- 
reavement, struggle and rest, but who was childless, and in 
whom, therefore, that subtlest instinct which gives compre- 
hension to the dullest had never been awakened — felt 
about it all much as Helen did ; but she expressed less, and 
the little she permitted herself to say was cold and vague; 
Coldness and vagueness characterized Mrs Chisholm, be- 
cause sorrow had early chilled her heart, and no one whom 
she loved had ever addressed himself to the awakening of 
her intellect. The curate had not had time, poor fellow ;■ 



244 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

he had had too much to do in persuading people to go to 
church who would not be persuaded ; and his Sophy had 
been so pretty in the brief old time, so cheerful, so notable, 
so lovable and beloved, that it had never occurred to him 
that her mind might have been a little larger and a little 
stronger with advantage. The time was brief, and the 
curate died in the simple old faith, leaving his pretty Sophy 
to outlive him, his love, and her prettiness, but never to 
outlive his memory, or to cease to glory in that unutterably- 
precious recollection, that her husband had never found 
fault with her in his life. On the whole, then, Laurence 
Alsager was gently judged and mildly handled by the wor- 
thy people who had the best right to criticise his conduct ; 
and perhaps the knowledge that this was the case added 
keenness to the pang of self-reproach, which made his self- 
inflicted punishment, with which he read the brief but ter- 
rible news flashed to his conscious heart along the marvellous 
electric wire. 

Evening had fallen over stream and meadow, over upland 
and forest, at Knockholt. It had come with the restless 
and depressing influence which contrasts so strangely with 
the calm and peace it brings to the fulness of life and 
health, into the lofty and spacious chamber where Sir 
Peregrine lay, prostrate under the victorious hand of 
paralysis. The mysterious influence of serious illness, the 
shadow of the wings of the Angel of Death, rested heavily 
upon the whole of that decorously-ordered house ; and the 
watchers in the chamber of helplessness, it may be of pain, 
— who can tell ? who can interpret the enforced stillness, 
the inexorable dumbness of that dread disease? — succumbed 
to its gloom. Mrs Chisholm and Helen were there, not, 
indeed, close by the bed, not watching eageidy the motion- 
less form, but gazing alternately at each other and at the 
doctor, who kept a vigilant watch over the patient. •■ This 
watch had, if possible, increased in intensity since sunset, 
at which time Dr Gralton had perceived a change, visible at 
first to the eye of science alone. The dreadful immobility 
had certainly relaxed ; the rigidity of the features, blended 
with an indescribable but wofully-perceptible distortion of 
the habitual expression, had softened ; the plum-like blue- 



KNOCKHOLT PARK. 215 

ness of the lips had faded to a hue less startlingly con- 
trasted with that of the shrunken and ashy features. 

" He will recover from this attack, I hope — I think," 
said the doctor in answer to a mute question which he read 
in Helen's eyes, as he stood upright after a long and close 
investigation of the patient. " Yes, he will outlive this. I 
wish Colonel Alsager were here." 

" We may expect him very soon," Mrs Chisholm said ; 
" he would start immediately of course, and we know the 
telegraph-message would reach him in time for him to catch 
the up-train." 

As she spoke, Avheels were heard on the distant carriage- 
drive. Sir Peregrine's room was on the north side, that 
farthest from the approach ; and immediately afterwards a 
servant gently opened the door — ah, with what needless 
caution ! — and told Mrs Chisholm that the Colonel had ar- 
rived, and desired to see her. There was more awkward- 
ness than agitation in Mrs Chisholm's manner as she 
hurriedly rose to comply with this request, hut was inter- 
rupted by Dr Galton, who said : 

" No, no, my dear madam, — I had better see him myself; 
I can make him understand the necessary care and caution 
better than you can." 

Mrs Chisholm returned to her seat in silent acqui- 
escence ; and for the ensuing half-hour she and Helen sat 
sadly looking at the helpless form upon the bed, and oc- 
casionally whispering to one another their several impres- 
sions of how Laurence Alsager " would bear it." 

What Laurence Alsager had to bear, and how he bore it, 
was not for any one to see. He held himself aloof even 
from the gentle scrutiny he had so little reason to dread. 
In half-an-hour Dr Gralton reentered Sir Peregrine's room, 
looking very grave, and requested Mrs Chisholm and 
Helen to withdraw. 

" I am going to let Colonel Alsager see his father," he 
said ; " and I think there should be no one else by. We can 
never know exactly how much or how little the patient 
feels, or knows, or is affected in eases like these ; but one 
at a time is an admirable rule." 

" He will find us in the long drawing-room when he 



246 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

wishes to see us," said Mrs Chisholm; and then she and 
Helen left the room, and went in silence along the wide 
corridor, and down the broad flat staircase of fine white 
stone, with its narrow strip of velvet-pile carpeting and its 
heavy, carved balustrade, terminated by a fierce figure in 
armour holding a glittering spear, with a mimic banderol 
blazoned with the device of the Alsagers. The wide stone 
hall, at the opposite extremity of which the door of the 
long drawing-room stood open, the heavy velvet portiere 
withdrawn, was hung with trophies of the chase and of war. 
Tiger-skins, buffalo-horns, the depouilles of the greater and 
the lesser animals which man so loves to destroy, adorned 
its walls, diversified by several handsome specimens of 
Indian arms, and a French helmet, pistol, and sabretache. 
Four splendid wood-carvings, representing such scenes as 
Snyders has painted, were conspicuous among the orthodox 
ornaments of the hall. They were great favourites with 
Sir Peregrine, who had bought them in one of the old 
Belgian cities on the one only occasion when he had visited 
foreign parts — an awful experience, to which he had been 
wont to allude with mingled pride and repugnance. Helen 
glanced at them sadly as she crossed the hall ; then turned 
her head carelessly in the direction of the great door, which 
stood open, and before which a huge black Newfoundland 
lay at full length upon the marble steps. At the same 
moment the dog, whose name was Faust, rose, wagged his 
tail, twitched his ears, and cantered down the steps, and 
across the terrace in an oblique direction. 

""Who is that, Helen?" asked Mrs Chisholm, as she 
caught sight of Faust's swift-vanishing form. " Some one 
is coming whom the dog knows." 

" It is only Mr Farleigh," answered Helen ; but her 
reply must have been made quite at random, for she had 
not advanced another step in the direction of the door, and 
could not possibly have seen, from her position in the hall, 
who was approaching the house at that moment. 

Mrs Chisholm had a natural and spontaneous inclination 
towards curates. She respected — indeed, she admired all 
the ranks of the hierarchy and all their members, and she 
never could be induced to regard them as in any way 



KNOCKHOLT PARE. 247 

divided in spirit or opinions. They were all sacred creatures 
in her eves, from the most sucking of curates to the most 
soapy of bishops ; but the curates had the preeminence in 
the order of this remarkably unworldly woman's estimation. 
Her Augustine had been a curate ; he might, indeed, have 
become a bishop in the fulness of time, and supposing the 
order of merit to have been attended to by the prime 
minister in posse ; but fate had otherwise decreed, and his 
apotheosis had occurred at the curate-stage of his career. 
For this perfectly laudable and appreciable reason Mrs 
Chisholm liked the Reverend Outhbert Earleigh, and would 
have liked him had he been the silliest, most commonplace, 
most priggish young parson in existence — bad he had weak 
eyes and a weak mind, Low- Church opinions, and a talent 
for playing the flute. But the Reverend Cuthbert had 
none of these things. On the contrary, he was a handsome 
manly young fellow, who looked as if he possessed an 
intellect and a conscience, and was in the habit of using 
both ; who had a tall well-built figure, fine expressive dark 
eyes, and an independent, sensible, cheerful manner, which 
few people could have resisted. Helen Manningtree had 
never made any attempt at resisting it. She had known 
Cuthbert Earleigh for eighteen months, and she had been in 
love with him just twelve out of the number. She was not 
aware of the circumstance at first, for she had had no ex- 
perience of similar feelings ; she had had none of the pre- 
liminary feints and make-believes which often precede the 
great passion of such persons as are calculated to feel a 
great passion, and the tepid sincerity of such a3 are not. 
Helen had never experienced a sensation of preference for 
any one of the limited and not very varied number of young 
country gentlemen whom she had met since she "came out" 
(the term had a restricted significance in her case) ; and 
when she did experience and avow to herself such a senti- 
ment in the instance of the Reverend Cuthbert Earleigh, 
she readily accounted for it to herself by impressing on her 
own memory that, however young he might look and be, he 
was her spiritual pastor and master — and, of course, that 
occult influence affected her very deeply — and by making 
up her mind that he preached beautifully. And Cuthbert? 



248 



RUNNING- THE GAUNTLET. 



What was the young lady with the brown eyes, and the 
brown curls, and the fresh healthful complexion ; the young 
lady who was not indeed strictly beautiful, nor, perhaps, 
exactly pretty, but who was so charming, so graceful, so 
thoroughly well-bred ; such an innate lady in thought, 
word, and deed, in accent, in gesture, in manner ; — what 
was she to him ? He had asked himself that same question 
many a time ; he asked it now, as he came up to the open 
door — rarely shut at Knockholt Park, save in the rigorous 
depths of winter — and he came to the conclusion, as he 
thought of the manifest luxury and elegance in whose 
enjoyment Helen had been reared, and of the probable 
fortune which she would possess, that he had better post- 
pone answering it until he should have become a bishop. 

Helen, who did not try to analyze her own perturbations, 
and was wholly unconscious of Cuthbert's, received him with 
her accustomed gentle sweetness, but with a sedate and 
mournful gravity adapted to the circumstances. When the 
ladies had brought their lengthy and minute narrative to a 
close — a narrative which embraced only the history of 
twenty-four hours, for Cuthbert was a regular and attentive 
visitor — he inquired about Colonel Alsager. Had he been 
informed ? had he been sent for ? had he come ? 

" Yes, to all your questions, Mr Earleigh. Colonel Al- 
sager is now in the house, in Sir Peregrine's room ; but as 
yet we have not seen him." 

The sensitive and expressive face of the curate was clouded 
by a look of pain and regret. He and Colonel Alsager had 
never met ; but the young clergyman knew Sir Peregrine 
better, perhaps, than any other person knew him, and re- 
spected him deeply. He could not regard Laurence's con- 
duct so lightly, he could not acquit him as easily, as others 
did. He blamed him heavily, as he sat and listened to the 
women's talk ; and with the blame keen compassion mingled ; 
for he knew, with the mysterious insight of a sympathetic 
nature, all that he must suffer in realizing that regret must 
be in vain, must be wasted now r , must be too late. 

The occasion was too solemn to admit of so trivial a feel- 
ing as curiosity ; but had it not been so, that feminine sen- 
timent would undoubtedly have predominated among the 



KNOCKHOLT PARK. 249 

emotions with which Mrs Chisholm and Helen ManniDgtree 
received Colonel Alsager, when, after a lengthened interval, 
he made his appearance in the long drawing-room. As it 
was, their mutual greetings were kindly but subdued. The 
presence of illness and danger in the house superseded all 
minor considerations, and Colonel Alsager might have been 
a guest as familiar as he was in reality strange, for all the 
emotion his presence excited. Mrs Chisholm introduced 
Cuthbert Farleigh, and added to the usual formula a few 
words to the effect that he was a favoured guest with Sir 
Peregrine, which, led Alsager to receive the introduction 
warmly, and to prosecute the acquaintance with zeal. The 
curate thawed under the influence of the Colonel's genial 
manner, — so warm and attractive, with all its solemn impress 
of regret, fear, and uncertainty. After a little while the 
women went away again to resume their dreary watch ; and 
Dr Calton came down to make his report, and to join Al- 
sager at his late and much-needed dinner. A telegraphic 
message had been sent to London to seek further medical 
assistance ; but the great man, who could do so little, could 
not reach Enockholt before the morning. In the mean time 
there was little change in the state of the patient ; but Dr 
Galton adhered to the hopeful opinion he had formed at 
sunset. Cuthbert Farleigh went away from the Park, and 
sat down to the preparation of his Sunday's sermon with a 
troubled mind. " What a capital good fellow Alsager is," he 
thought, " with all his faults ! What a number of questions he 
asked about her ! He takes a great interest in her. Well, it 
would be a very natural and a very nice thing." It is granted, 
is it not, on all hands, that the abandonment of proper names 
and the substitution of pronouns — which, whether personal 
or impersonal, are at all events demonstrative — is a very 
suspicious circumstance in certain cases ? 

Sir Peregrine Alsager did not die, as Laurence had 
thought, and dreaded that he was to die, with the silence 
between them unbroken, the estrangement unremoved. 
Nothing could undo the past, indeed ; but the present was 
given to the father and son ; and its preciousness was valued 
duly by them both. Iu a few days after Laurence's arrival 



250 KUNNING THE GAUNTLET, 

the paralysis loosened its grasp of his father's faculties ; and 
though he still lay in his bed shrunk, shrivelled, and helpless, 
he could see, and hear, and speak. Sometimes his words 
were a little confused, and a slight but distressing lapse of 
memory caused him to pause and try painfully first to recall 
the word he wanted, and next to accomplish its utterance ; 
but gradually this difficulty wore away, and the old man 
spoke freely, though little. He was greatly changed by his 
illness — was most pathetically patient ; and his face, a little 
distorted by the shock, and never more to wear the healthy 
hue of his vigorous age, assumed an expression of tranquil 
waiting. The supremacy of his will was gone with the 
practical abolition of his authority. He let it slip unno- 
ticed. He cared little for anything now but the presence 
of his son and the progress of the mornings and the even- 
ings which were making the week-days of his life, and wear- 
ing towards the dawn of the eternal Sabbath. He loved to 
have Helen with him, and would regard her with unwonted 
interest and tenderness, — keenest when she and Laurence 
met beside his couch, and talked together, as they came 
gradually to do, very often at first for his sake, and 
afterwards, as he hoped, as he never doubted, for their own. 
Tes, the keen anxiety, the foresight, the intensifying of 
former mental attributes which characterize some kinds of 
physical decay in persons of a certain intellectual and moral 
constitution and calibre, showed themselves strongly in Sir 
Peregrine Alsager, and centred themselves in his son. He 
had asked nothing, and had heard little of his wandering 
and purposeless life ; but that little had made the old man 
— held back now, on the brink of the eternal verity, by no 
scruples of coldness, of pride, of pique, or of scrupulosity — 
very anxious that his son should marry, and settle down to 
live at Knockholt Park at least a fair proportion of the 
year. With that considerate, but perhaps, after all, beau- 
tiful, simplicity which restores to age the faith of youth, and 
builds her shrines for all the long-shattered idols, Sir Pere- 
grine reasoned of his own life and his own experience, and 
applied his deductions to his son's far different case. He 
was, however, too wise to put his wishes into words, or 
even to make them evident without words, to their 



KNOCKHOLT TARE. 251 

objects. But there were two persons in the small group 
who tenanted Knockholt Park who knew that the dearest 
wish of Sir Peregrine's heart, that desire which overpassed 
the present and projected itself into the inscrutable future, 
when its fruition might perchance never be known to him, 
was that Laurence Alsager, his son, should marry Helen 
Manningtree, his ward. The two who had penetrated the 
inmost feelings of the old man were Cuthbert Farleigh and 
Mrs Chisholm. 

How sped the days with Colonel Alsager in the old home ? 
Heavily, to say the least of it. He had undergone strong 
excitement of various kinds ; and now reaction had set in, 
with the unspeakable relief of his father's reprieve from im- 
mediate death. During his journey from Eedmoor to 
Knockholt he had been an unresisting prey to bitter and 
confused regrets ; so bitter, they seemed almost like remorse ; 
so unavailing, they touched the confines of despair. The 
scenes in which he had lately played a part, the problems 
he had been endeavouring to solve, rushed from his view, 
and retired to the recesses of his memory, — to come out 
again, and occupy him more closely, more anxiously than 
ever, when the cruel grasp of suspense and terror was re- 
moved from his heart ; when the monotony of the quiet 
house, and the life regulated by the exigencies of that of an 
invalid, had fairly settled down upon him ; when all the 
past seemed distant, and all the future had more than the 
ordinary uncertainty of human existence. There was no 
estrangement between Laurence and his father now ; but 
the son knew that there was no more similarity than before. 
Their relative positions had altered, and with the change 
old things had passed away. The pale and shrunken old 
man who lay patiently on his couch beside the large window 
of the library at Knockholt, at which the peacocks had now 
learned to tap and the dogs to sniff, was not the silent 
though urbane, the hale and arriere country gentleman to 
whom his Guardsman's life had been an unattractive 
mystery, and all his ways distasteful. That Guardsman's 
life, those London ways, the shibboleth of his set, even the 
distmctive peculiarities of his own individuality, had all been 
laid aside, almost obliterated, by the dread reality which 



~^ RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

liad drawn so near, and still, as they both knew, was un- 
obtrusively ever nigh at hand. Father and son were much 
together at certain regulated times ; and Laurence was un- 
failing in his scrupulous observance of all the wishes, his 
intuitive perception of all the fancies, of the invalid. Still 
there were many hours of solitude to be got through in 
every day ; and Laurence Alsager held stricter and truer 
commune with his own heart, while they passed over the 
dial, than he had ever been used to hold. The quiet of the 
house ; the seclusion of the park in which he walked and 
rode ; the formal beauty of the garden, where he strolled 
with Helen Manningtree, and listened to her enthusiastic 
expectations of what its appearance would be when the time 
of flowers should have fully arrived ; the regularity of the 
household ; the few and trivial interruptions from without ; 
— all these things had a strong influence on the sensitive 
temperament of Laurence Alsager, and gradually isolated 
him within himself. There was nothing to disturb the 
retrospective and introspective current of his thoughts ; and 
in those quiet weeks of waiting he learned much of himself, 
of life, and of truth — knowledge which otherwise might 
never have come to him. It was not very long before his 
mind recurred painfully to Jiedmoor and its mistress, whom 
he had left in a position of difficulty and danger. He re- 
membered the counsel he had given her, and he wondered 
whether it might avail. He pondered on all the eventu- 
alities which the triste sagesse of a man of the world taught 
him to anticipate, and longed for power to avert them or to 
alter their character. He learned some wholesome lessons 
in these vain aspirations, and looked deeper into the stream 
of life than he had ever looked before. 

He looked at Lady Mitford's position from every point of 
view ; he weighed and measured her trials, and then he 
began to speculate upon her temptations. All at once it 
struck him that he had ceased to fear Lord Dollamore ; 
that that distinguished personage had somehow dropped out 
of his calculations ; that he was occupying himself rather 
with her sentimental griefs than -with the serious dan- 
ger which he had believed, a little while ago, menaced 
her reputation and her position. He feared Laura Ham- 



KNOCKHOLT PARK. 253 

niond, and he ardently desired to penetrate the full mean- 
ing of Miss Gillespie's warning. He perfectly under- 
stood the difficulty of conveying to a mind so innocent 
as that of Lady Mitford the full force and meaning of the 
counsel he had given her, the hopelessness of inducing her 
to arm herself with a woman's legitimate weapon — the 
strong desire to please, — and getting her to use it against 
her husband. She did not lack intelligence, but she did 
not possess tact ; and her nature was too refined and 
straightforward to give her any chance in so unequal a con- 
test as that into which her husband's worthlessness had 
forced her. 

And now another truth came steadily up from the abyss 
into which Alsager was always gazing, and confronted him. 
That truth was the motive which animated his thoughts and 
inspired his perceptions ; which gave him so clear an insight 
into Lady Mitford's position, and enabled him to read her 
heart with more distinctness than she herself could have in- 
terpreted it. One day Laurence Alsager knew, and ac- 
knowledged to himself, what this motive was, whence came 
this intuition. He loved Georgie Mitford. Yes ; the idle 
speculation, the indignation of a true gentleman at behold- 
ing the innocent wronged and the trusting deceived ; the 
loyal instinct of protection ; the contemptuous anger Avhich 
had led him to detest Laura Hammond and to desire her 
discomfiture ; the tender and true sympathy of a world- 
worn man with a pure and simple woman, to whom the 
world and its ways are all unknown and unsuspected ; the 
shrinking from beholding the suffering which experience 
must inflict, — all these had been evident — they had existed 
in utter integrity and vitality. Alsager had not deceived 
himself then, neither did he deceive himself now ; and 
though they still existed, they had receded from their 
prominence, — they did but supplement another, a more 
powerful, a more vital reality. He loved her — he never 
doubted the fact, never questioned it more. He loved with 
a love as much superior to, as much stronger, holier, truer, 
and more vital than, any love which ho had ever before felt 
or fancied— as his present self-commune was more candid, 
searching, and complete than any counsel ever previously 



254 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

held in the secret chambers of his brain and heart. He 
had settled this point -with himself, and was moodily pon- 
dering on the possible consequences of the fact, and on the 
alteration in his own position towards Lady Mitford which 
it implied, when he received a letter from Georgie. It was 
not the first, — several notes had passed between them in 
the easy intimacy of their acquaintance ; but it was the first 
since that acquaintance had strengthened into friendship. 
And now, for him, friendship too had passed away, and in 
its place stood love — dangerous, delicious, entrancing, be- 
wildering love. So Georgie's letter had altogether a dif- 
ferent value and significance for him now. This was the 
letter : 

"Eedmoor, — March 18—. 

" Dear Colonel Alsager, — Sir Charles received your 
kind note, but has been too busy to write ; so he has asked 
me to do so, and I comply with very great pleasure. I 
need hardly say how truly glad we were to hear of the im- 
provement in Sir Peregrine's state, and how earnestly we 
hope he may completely rally. All things are going on 
here much as usual. Poor Mr Hammond is very ill, — fail- 
ing rapidly, I am sure ; this week he is suffering fearfully 
from bronchitis. They talked of going away, but that is of 
course impossible. I am a good deal with him, and I think 
he likes me. Lord Dollamore has come back from town, 
and is staying here, — doing nothing but lounge about and 
watch everybody. Is there any chance that we shall have 
the pleasure of seeing you again if we are detained here 
much longer ? I hoped Charley would have taken me to 
see my father, who has been ailing this cold spring weather ; 
but I fear the long delay here will prevent that, — he will 
be impatient to get to town as soon as possible. Pray let 
us hear from you how Sir Peregrine is. Charley is out, but 
I know I may add his kindest regards to my own. — Tours, 
dear Colonel Alsager, always sincerely, 

" GrEORGINA MlTFORD. 

" P.S. I have not forgotten your advice for a minute, nor 
ceased to act upon it, and to thank you for it from my 
heart. But — it is so difficult to write upon this subject — 



KNOCKHOLT PARK. 255 

difficult to me to write on any, for, as you know, I am uot 
clever, unfortunately for me. Could you not come ? " 

Laurence read arid re-read this simple letter with un- 
speakable pain and keen irrepressible delight. She trusted 
him ; she thought of him ; she wished for his presence ! 
Could he not come ? she asked. No ; he could not. But 
supposing he could — ought he ? Well, he was a brave man 
and a true, and he faced that question also. How he 
answered it remains to be seen. 

The days passed at Knockholt Park, and resembled each 
other very closely. Laurence saw a good deal of Cuthbert 
Parleigh, and liked him much. He wondered a little, after the 
manner of men, at the content yielded by a life so unlike 
his own, or any that his fancy had ever painted ; but if he 
and the curate did not sympathize, they coalesced. Lau- 
rence wrote again to, and heard again from, Lady Mitford. 

There was not much in her letter apart from her kind 
and sympathizing comments upon his ; but he gathered a 
good deal from the tone which unconscioiisly pervaded it. 
He learned that she had not succeeded in breaking up the 
party at Eedmoor ; that Sir Charles had invited a fresh re- 
lay of county guests ; that Mr Hammond's health was very 
precarious ; and that Greorgie had not been gratified in her 
wish to see her father. The letter made him more uneasy, 
more sad, by its reticence than by its revelations. If he 
could but have returned to Redmoor ! — but it was impossi- 
ble. If he could have left his father, how was he to have 
accounted for an uninvited return to Sir Charles Mitford's 
house ? He did not choose, for many reasons, to assume or 
cultivate such relations with the worthy Baronet as going 
there in an informal manner would imply. 

So March and April slipped away, and Laurence Alsager 
was still at Knockholt, in close attendance upon his father. 
One day in the last week of April, Laurence was returning 
from a solitary ramble in the park, intending to read to his 
father for a while, if he should find that Sir Peregrine 
(sensibly feebler, and much inclined to slumber through the 
brightest hours of sunshine) could bear the exertion of 
listening. As he emerged from the shade of a thick planta- 



256 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



tion on the north side of the house and approached the 
terrace, he observed with alarm that several servants were 
assembled on the steps, and that two came running towards 
him, with evident signs of agitation and distress. He ad- 
vanced quickly to meet them, and exclaimed, " Is anything 
wrong ? Is my father worse ? " 

" I am sorry to tell you, Sir Laurence — " began the fore- 
most of the two servants. And so Laurence Alsager learned 
that his father had gone to his rest, and that he had come 
to his kingdom. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 



LORD DOLLAMORE S COUNSEL. 



Lady Mitford remained in the library, where Colonel 
Alsager had bidden her farewell, for a long time after he 
had departed. She was sorely perplexed in spirit and de- 
pressed in mind. She was heartily grieved for Alsager, 
whom she had learned long ago to distinguish from the 
crowd of casual acquaintance by whom she had been sur- 
rounded as soon as her " brilliant marriage " had introduced 
her to the London world. Implicit confidence in him had 
come to reconcile her to the novel feeling of distrust towards 
others, which had gradually, under the deteriorating in- 
fluence of her recent experiences, taken possession of her. 
He represented to her a great exception to a rule whose 
extent she had not yet thoroughly learned to estimate, and 
whose existence pained and disgusted her. His convers- 
ation with her just before his departure had ratified the 
tacit bond between them ; and as Lady Mitford sat gazing 
idly from the wide window down the broad carriage-drive by 
which the riding-party had departed, she dwelt with grateful 
warmth upon every detail of Alsager's words, every variation 
of his manner and inflection of his voice. 

"At least he is my friend," she thought; "and what a 



T,OT<T> DOLLAMOTJIS S OoiTNHNU Z-> i 

comfort it is to know that ! what a support in the state- of 
■wretched uncertainty I seem doomed to!" Anon she 
ceased to think of Colonel Alsager at all, and her fancy 
strayed, as fancy always does, to scenes and subjects whence 
pain is to be extracted. If any stranger could have looked 
into that handsome and luxurious room just then, and seen 
its tenant, ho would have recoiled from the contrast and 
contradictions of the picture. She sat, as Alsager had left 
her sitting, on a low brown-morocco couch, facing the deep 
bav-window ; her hands lay idly in her lap, her small head 
was bent listlessly forward ; but the gaze of the lustrous and 
thoughtful eves was fixed and troubled. The soft tempered 
light touched her hair, her quiet hands, the graceful out- 
lines of her figure, and the rich folds of her dress with a 
tender brilliance, but no sunshine from within lighted up 
the pale brow or brightened the calm sorrowful lips. Time 
passed on, and still she sat absorbed in her thoughts, until 
at length the loud chiming of the clocks aroused her. 
She threw off her preoccupation by an effort, and saying 
half aloud, " At least they shall not return and find me 
moping here," she passed out of the library She paused 
a moment in the hall, debating with herself whether she 
would betake herself at once to the piano in her dressing- 
room, or go and inquire for poor old Mr Hammond, to 
whom she had not yet made her customary daily visit. 
Lady Mitford was in the mood just then to do a kindness ; 
her heart was full of Alsager' s kindness to herself, and she 
Bent for Mr Hammond's man, and bade him tell his master 
she requested admittance to his room if he felt able to see 
her. 

" I suppose if he had not been," she added mentally, 
" his wife would have been afraid to have left him to-day." 

Lady Mitford had made considerable progress in the 
science of life since the friend who had left her presence 
that morning had seen her for the first time at the 
Parthenium, but she had need to make a great deal more 
before she could be qualified to comprehend Laura Ham- 
mond. 

Georgie found Mr Hammond pretty well, and tolerably 
cheerful. The feeble old man liked Ids gentle and con- 

17 



258 EUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

siderate hostess. He had liked her when he was in health ; 
and he liked her still better now that the languor of illness 
rendered him liable to being fatigued by ordinarily dull or 
extraordinarily brilliant people. Greorgie was neither ; — ■ 
she was only a gentle, refined, humble-minded, pure-hearted 
lady ; and the old man, though of course he did not admire 
her at all in comparison with his own brilliant and bewitch- 
ing Laura, and had considered her (under Laura's instruc- 
tions) rather vapid and commonplace the preceding season, 
was in a position just then to appreciate these tamely admir- 
able qualities to their fullest extent. She remained with Mr 
Hammond until the sound of the horses' hoofs upon the 
avenue warned her that the cavalcade was returning. She 
then went hastily down the great staircase, and reached the 
hall just in time to see Mrs Hammond lifted from her sad- 
dle by Sir Charles with demonstrative gallantry, and to ob- 
serve that he looked into her face as he placed her upon the 
ground with an expression which rendered words wholly 
superfluous. The unborn strength which had been created 
by Alsager's counsel was too weak to bear this sharp 
trial. Greorgie shrunk as if she had been stung, and 
abandoning her brave purpose of giving her guests a 
cheerful greeting at the door, she took refuge in her own 
room. 

On this day Sir Charles for the first time departed from 
the custom he had maintained since their marriage, of seek- 
ing Greorgie on his return home after any absence. It was 
a significant omission ; and as she took her place at the 
dinner-table, Lady Mitford felt that the few hours which 
had elapsed since Colonel Alsager had given her that 
counsel, which every hour became more difficult for her to 
follow, had made a disastrous difference in her position. 
She would make a great effort — she would do all that 
Laurence had advised, but how if Sir Charles estranged 
himself from her altogether ? — and even to her inexperience 
there was something ominous in any marked departure from 
his accustomed habits, — what should she do then ? He 
might either persist in a tacit estrangement, which would 
place her at a hopeless disadvantage, or he might quarrel 
with |ier, and end all by an open rupture. Greorgie was 



LOBD DOLXAMOBB S COUNSEL. Zb\) 

beginning to understand the man she had married, without 
as yet ceasing to love him ; and it is wonderful what rapid 
progress the dullest of women will make in such knowledge 
when they are once set on its right track. 

Lord Dollamore took Lady Mitford to dinner, as usual, 
on that day, and Sir Charles gave his arm to Mrs Ham- 
mond. He had entered the drawing-room only a moment 
before dinner was announced, and had not exchanged a word 
Avith his Avife. Among the first topics of conversation was 
Colonel Alsager's departure, which Sir Charles treated with 
much indifference, and to whose cause Mrs Hammond ad- 
verted with a pert flippancy, so much at variance with her 
customary adherence to the rules of good taste that the 
circumstance attracted Lord Dollamore's attention. He 
made no remark when she had concludQd her lively sallies 
upon the inconvenience of fathers in general, the incon- 
siderateness of fathers Avho had paralytic strokes in par- 
ticular, and the generic detestability of all old people ; but 
he watched her closely, and when her exclusive attention 
was once more claimed by Sir Charles, whose undisguised 
devotion almost reached the point of insult to the re- 
mainder of the company, he smiled a satisfied smile, like 
that of a man who has been somewhat puzzled by an enig- 
ma, and who finds the key to it all of a sudden. A little 
was said about Miss Gillespie, but not much ; she was 
speedily relegated to the category of " creatures " by Mrs 
Hammond, and then she was forgotten. The general con- 
versation was perhaps a little flat, as general conversation 
is apt to be under such inharmonious circumstances ; and 
Lady Mitford's assumed spirits nagged suddenly and des- 
perately. A feeling of weariness, of exhaustion, which 
quenched pride and put bitterness aside, came over her ; a 
dreary loathing of the scene and its surroundings ; a swift 
passing vision of the dear old home she had left so cheer- 
fully — abandoned so heartlessly, she would now have said 
— of the dear old father of whom she had thought so little 
latterly, Avhose advice would be so precious to her now, — 
only that she Avould not tell him for the world ; a horrid 
sense of powerlessness in the hands of a pitiless enemy — 
all these rushed pver her in one cold wave of trouble. An- 



260 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

other moment and she would have burst into hysterical 
tears, when a low firm whisper recalled her to herself. 

" Command yourself," it said ; " she is looking at you, 
though you cannot perceive it. Drink some wine, and 
smile." 

It was Lord Dollamore who spoke, and Lady Mitford 
obeyed him. He did not give her time to feel surprise or 
anger at his interpretation of her feelings, or his inter- 
position to save her from betraying them ; but instantly, 
with the utmost ease and readiness, he applied himself to the 
task of enlivening the company, and that so effectually, that 
he soon gained even the attention of the preoccupied pair at 
the other end of the table, and turned a dinner-party which 
had threatened to become a lamentable failure into a suc- 
cess. It was a bold stroke ; but he played it with coolness 
and judgment, and it told admirably. Lady Mitford lifted 
her candid eyes to his as she left the dining-room, and there 
was neither anger nor reproach in them ; but there was 
gratitude, and the dawn of confidence. 

" Just so," thought Lord Dollamore, as he drew his chair 
up to the table again ; " she's the sort of woman who must 
trust somebody ; and she has found out that her reclaimed 
Charley is not to be trusted. I'll see if I can't make her 
trust me." 

It suited Laura Hammond's humour to exert her powers 
of pleasing on this evening, or perhaps even her audacious 
spirit quailed before the ordeal of the female after-dinner 
conclave, and she was forced to cover her fear by bravado. 
At any rate, she appeared in an entirely new character. 
The insolent indolence, the ennui which usually characterized 
her demeanour Avhen there were no men present, were 
thrown aside, and she deliberately set herself to carry the 
women by storm. She talked, she laughed, she admired 
their dresses, and made suggestions respecting their 
coiffures. She offered one a copy of a song unpurchaseable 
for money and unprocurable for love ; she promised another 
that her maid should perform certain miracles in millinery 
on her behalf ; she sat down at the piano and played and 
sang brilliantly. Lady Mitford watched her in silent 
amazement, in growing consternation. The witchery of her 



& 



COUNSEL. l!()l 

beauty was irresistible. ; the power of an evil purpose lent 
her the subtlest seduetive charm. The dark-grey eyes 
flashed lire, and flowed with triumph; the wanton mouth 
trembled with irrepressible fun. 

It was an easy and a common thing for Laura Hammond 
to captivate men, and she really thought nothing about it, 
unless some deeper purpose, some remoter end, happened, as 
in the present instance, to be in view ; but women, to tell 
the simple truth, always feared, generally envied, and fre- 
quently hated her ; she enjoyed her triumph over the 
" feminine clique," as she disdainfully called them, at Red- 
moor thoroughly, and with keen cynical appreciation. She 
played her game steadily all that evening. When the 
gentlemen came into the drawing-room she almost ignored 
their presence ; she was innocently, ingenuously polite, but 
she admitted no exclusive attentions ; she never relapsed 
for a moment in her Avheedling, but never overdone, civili- 
ties to the women. She brought forward the bashful 
young ladies ; she actually played a perfect accompaniment, 
full of the most enchanting trills and shakes, to a feeble 
bleat Avhich one of them believed to be a song ; and when 
Sir Charles Mitford, Avhose ungoverned temper and natural 
ill-breeding invariably got the better of the conventional 
restraints which were even yet strange to him, endeavoured 
to interrupt her proceedings, she stopped him with a 
stealthy uplifted finger, and a warning glance directed 
towards his wife. Her victim was persuaded that he fully 
understood her ; he rendered her admirable ruse, in his 
feeble way, the warmest tribute of admiration ; and he left 
the room with a vague consciousness that the indifference 
which had been for some time his only feeling towards his 
wife was rapidly turning into hatred. 

Laura Hammond's own game was not the only one she 
played that night. Lord Dollamore had watched her quite 
as closely as Lady Mitford, and to more purpose. He saw 
that — whether from mere sheer recklessness or from some 
deeper motive, which he thought he could dimly discern — 
she was hurrying matters to a crisis, and that he might take 
advantage of the position which she had created. They 
were dainty jewelled chiws with which he proposed to snatch 



262 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

the fruit he coveted from the fire ; but what of that ; they 
were cruel also ; and when they had done his work he cared 
little what became of them. Let them be scorched and 
burnt ; let the sharp talons be torn out from their roots ; 
what cared he ? So he watched the feline skill, the deft, 
supple, graceful dexterity of the woman, with a new interest 
— personal this time ; any he had previously felt had been 
mere connoisseurship, mere cynical curiosity, in a marked 
and somewhat rare specimen. 

Every evidence of this observation, every sign of this new 
interest, was carefully and successfully suppressed. When 
all other eyes were turned on Mrs Hammond, his never 
rested on her even by accident. She sang ; and while the 
greater part of the company gathered round the piano, and 
those who could not obtain places near the singer kept pro- 
found silence, and listened with eager intensity, Dollamore 
ostentatiously suppressed a yawu, turned over the up- 
holstery-books which ornamented the useless tables, scru- 
tinized the chimney-decorations, and finally strolled into the 
adjoining room. Equally artistic was his demeanour to- 
wards Lady Mitford. He was delicately deferential and 
frankly cordial ; but neither by word or look did he remind 
her of the service he had rendered her at dinner. Greorgie 
might have been slow to comprehend genius and appreciate 
wit, but she recognized delicacy and good taste at a glance : 
and so it fell out that when she received Lord Dollamore's 
" good-night," she thought, as she returned the valediction, 
" There is one man besides Colonel Alsager over whom she 
has no power. Lord Dollamore holds her in contempt." 

The next morning at breakfast Lord Dollamore an- 
nounced regretfully that he must leave Eedmoor for a few 
days, but hoped to return by the end of the week. He 
addressed this announcement to Sir Charles Mitford, who 
was gazing intently on Mrs Hammond as she broke the 
seals of several notes, and tossed them down one after 
another, half read, with a most reassuring air of indifference. 
Lady Mitford was not present ; breakfast was a free and 
unceremonious meal at Eedmoor, to which everybody came 
when everybody liked, and nobody was surprised if anybody- 
stayed away. Sir Charles expressed polite regret. 



LOED DOLLAMOEE'S COUNSEL. 263 

" Dear me ! " exclaimed Mrs Hammond, " how very sorry- 
Lady Mitford will be ! Bereft of her two courtiers, she will 
be bereaved indeed. First Colonel Alsager, and now Lord 
Dollamore. She will be quite au de'sespoir." 

' ; I wish I could hope to make so deep an impression by 
my absence, Mrs Hammond," he answered in the careless 
tone in which one replies to a silly observation made by a 
petted child. " Mitford, can you come with me into the 
library a minute ? " And he moved away, taking with him 
a parcel of letters. — " When you are spiteful, and show it, 
you grow vulgar, madam," he muttered under his breath — 
" after the manner of your kind — and a trifle coarse ; but 
Mitford is not the man to see that, or to mind it if he 
did." 

Half an hour later Lord Dollamore had left Redmoor ; 
and as he leant back in the railway carriage which bore him 
towards town, he quietly reviewed all that had taken place 
during his visit, and arrived at a conclusion perfectly satis- 
factory to himself. Then he resolved to think no more of 
the matter till his return ; and dismissed it with the reflec- 
tion that " Mitford was a regular beast, — low, and all that ;" 
but that she " was a devilish nice woman ; — no fool, but not 
clever enough to bore one, and pretty enough for any- 
thing." 

Matters continued pretty much in the same state at 
Redmoor during the week which followed Lord Dollamore's 
departure. Lady Mitford wrote to Colonel Alsager, and 
heard from him ; but her letter — that which we have seen 
him receive at Knockholt — said as little as possible of the 
real state of affairs. The truth made a faint attempt to 
struggle out in the postscript ; but pride, reserve, an in- 
stinct of propriety, the numberless obstacles to a woman in 
such a position as that of Lady Mitford telling it in its 
entirety to any man rendered the attempt abortive. Could 
he not come ? she had asked him. Could he not come ? 
she asked herself, in the weary days through which she was 
passing^days of which each one was wearier and more 
hopeless than its predecessor ; for things were becoming 
desperate now. The other guests had taken their leave, 
but still the Hammonds remained at Redmoor. Not a 



264 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

woman of the party but had known Laura's hollowness 
and falsehood well — had known that the powers of fascin- 
ation she had employed were mere tricks of cunning art ; 
but they were all fascinated for all that. Laura had made 
the close of the time at Eedmoor incomparably pleasant, 
whereas its opening had been undeniably dull ; and there 
was another reason for their letting Mrs Hammond down 
easily. They had remained as long as they could in the 
same house with her ; and how were they to excuse or 
account for their having done so, if they disclosed their real 
opinion of her character and conduct ? It was a keen pri- 
vation, no doubt, not to be able to descant upon the " doings" 
at Eedmoor, but they had to bear it ; and the only allevi- 
ation within their reach was an occasional compassionate 
mention of Lady Mitford as " hardly up to the mark for her 
position and fortune, and sadly jealous, poor thing \ " 

It would have been impossible, in common decency, to 
have avoided all mention of the departure of the Ham- 
monds ; and accordingly Sir Charles Mitford told his wife, 
as curtly and sullenly as possible, that she might make her 
preparations for going to town, as he supposed they would 
be moving off in a few days. Greorgie had suffered, dread- 
fully, but the worst was over. The keen agony of outraged 
love had died out, and the sense of shame, humiliation,, 
terrible apprehension, and uncertainty, was uppermost now. 
In her distress and perplexity she was quite alone ; she had 
no female friend at all in any real sense of the word. It 
was not likely Sir Charles Mitford's wife should have any ; 
and the only friend she could rely upon was away, and hope- 
lessly detained. The only friend she could rely on — As she 
repeated the lamentation over and over again in the soli- 
tude of her room, and in the bitterness of her heart, did it 
ever occur to her that the only friend she could rely on 
might be a dangerous, though not a treacherous one ; — that 
she was crying peace, peace, where there was no peace ? 

" When we know what the Hammonds are going to do, 
I shall write to Dollamore," said Sir Charles. He spoke to 
Greorgie. 

She felt an eager longing to see her old home, and to 
breathe a purer moral atmosphere than that of Eedmoor. " I 



I.OKD DOLLAJIURK ri COUNSEL. Zbo 

can only suffer and be perplexed here," she thought. "Let 
me get away, and I can think freely, and make up my mind 
to yome line of action. Out of her sight, I should be easier, 
even in town ; and how much easier at home ! — once more 
in the old place, and among the old people, where I used to 
be before I knew there Ave re such women as this one in the 
world." So she thought she would do a courageous thing, 
and ask Sir Charles to take her home for a little, as soon as 
the Hammonds should have left Eedmoor. 

She came to this resolution one morning before she went 
down to breakfast, — before she had to encounter Mrs 
Hammond, who brought a fresh supply of ammunition to 
the attack on each such occasion ; Avhose beauty was never 
brighter or more alluring than when she arrayed it in the 
elaborate simplicity of Parisian morning-dress ; who was 
not sufficiently sensitive to be jour nailer e, and who might 
always cherish a well-founded confidence in her own good 
looks, and the perfect efficiency of her weapons. Not that 
Gleorgie was fighting her any longer on the old terrain ; 
she had retreated from that, and had no other object now 
than to shield herself from the perpetual sharp fire of 
Laura's polished impertinence, her epigrammatic sarcasms, 
her contemptuous pity. Lady Mitford, whose good sense 
was apt to do its proper office in spite of the tumult of 
feeling constantly striving to overpower it, wondered some- 
times why Laura took so much trouble to wound her. 
li She has made sure of Sir Charles," the pure simple lady 
would say to herself, A\ r hen some sharp arrow had been shot 
at her, and she felt the smart, not quite so keenly as the 
archer thought perhaps, but keenly still. " She does not 
need to turn me into ridicule before him, to expose my de- 
fects and gauclieries ; she does not need to test his devotion 
to her by the strength and impenetrability of his indiffer- 
ence to me, — at least not now. She is clever enough 
to know that wit and humour, sarcasm and finesse, are all 
thrown away upon Mm, if she is showing them off for her 
own sake." Of a surety Lady Mitford was rapidly learning 
to estimate Sir Charles aright. " Her beauty and her un- 
scrupulousness have fascinated him, and all the rest is more 
likelv to bore him than otherwise. If she were in love with 



266 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

him she might not understand this ; but she is not in love 
with him — not even after her fashion and his own ; and I 
am sure she does understand it perfectly. "What does she 
throw so much vigilance away for, then? — for she never 
loses a chance. Why does she waste so much energy on 
me ? Of course, I know she hates me ; and if she be as 
good a hater as such a woman should be, she would not be 
satisfied with the one grand injury she has done me ; hatred 
might be pacified by so large a sop, but spite would crave 
for more. Tes, that must be the explanation — she is feed- 
ing spite." 

If the old clergyman who had cried over Georgie Stan- 
field on her wedding-day, and uttered that futile blessing on 
the marriage which was so unblessed, could have heard her 
speak thus to her own heart, how utterly confounded and 
astonished that good but not " knowledgable " individual 
would have been ! A few months in the great world to 
have turned Greorgie into this woman, who seeks for mo- 
tives, who reads character, who has all the dreary cunning 
in interpretation of the human heart which his life-long ex- 
perience had failed to impart to him, though he had passed 
half a century in professional proclamation that " the heart 
of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." 
But it was not her short experience of the great world in 
any general sense which had so far forwarded her education 
in the science of life as to enable her thus to analyze con- 
duct and motives, — she had had a surer, subtler teacher ; 
she had loved, and been betrayed ; she had hoped, and 
been deceived. She had dreamed a young girl's dream, and 
one by no means so exaggerated and exalted as most young 
girls indulge in ; and the awakening had come, not only 
with such rudeness and bitterness as seldom accompany the 
inevitable disillusionment, but with such startling rapidity, 
that the lasting of her vision had borne no more proportion 
to the usual duration of " love's young dream," than the 
forty winks of an after-dinner nap bear to the dimensions 
of " a good night's rest." Experience had not tapped at the 
sleeper's door, and lingered softly near the couch, and insinu- 
ated a gently-remonstrative remark that really it was time 
to risk — tenderly letting in the garish light by tempered 



LORD DOLLAMORE J S COUNSEL. 267 

degrees the while — cheerfully impressing, without hurry or 
severity, the truth that a work-day world — busy, stirring, 
dutiful, and real — lay beyond the glorified realms of slum- 
ber, and awaited the passing of the foot going forth to the 
appointed task over the enchanted threshold. The summary 
process of awakening by which the sleeper has a basinful 
of cold water flung on his face, and is pulled out of bed by 
his feet, bears a stricter metaphorical analogy to that by 
which Lady Mitford had been roused from her delusion ; 
and though she had reeled and staggered under it at first, 
the shock had effectually done its work. Georgie Mitford 
was a wiser woman than G-eorjrie Stanfield could ever have 
been made by any more considerate process. 

All Lady Mitford's newly-sprung wisdom, all the acute- 
ness she had gained by being sharpened on the grindstone 
of suffering, did not enable her to reach a complete compre- 
hension of Mrs Hammond's motives. She had not the key 
to the enigma ; she knew nothing of Laura's former rela- 
tions with Colonel Alsager. If she had ever heard the 
story, or any garbled version of it, at all, it was before she 
had auy distinct knowledge of, or interest in, either of the 
parties concerned, — when she was confused and harassed 
with the crowd of new names and unfamiliar faces, — and 
she had forgotten it. Even that advantage was her enemy's. 
Mrs Hammond had been peculiarly bewitching to Sir 
Charles, and preternaturally impertinent to Lady Mitford, 
at the breakfast-table, on the morning when Colonel Alsa- 
ger's first letter had arrived ; indeed, she had a little over- 
done her part, which was not altogether unnatural. Fierce 
passions, a violent temper, and a cold heart, form a power- 
ful but occasionally troublesome combination, and impera- 
tively demand a cool brain and steady judgment to control 
and utilize them. Laura Hammond had as cool a brain 
and as steady a judgment as even a very bad woman could 
reasonably be expected to possess ; but they were not in- 
variably dominant. The cold heart did not always aid them 
successfully in subduing the violent temper ; and when it 
failed to do so, the combination was apt to be mischievous. 
On the occasion in question, Mrs Hammond had been, to 
begin with, out of sorts, as the best-regulated natures, and 



-68 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

the most intent on their purposes in their worst sense, will 
occasionally be. Sir Charles bored her, and she was on the 
point of letting him perceive the fact, and thus giving her 
temper its head, when the cool brain interposed and curbed 
it in time. She exerted herself then to bewitch and en- 
slave the Baronet, even beyond his usual condition of 
enchantment and subjugation. Her success was complete; 
but its enjoyment was mitigated by her perception that it 
had failed to affect Lady Mitford. The husband whom she 
had undoubtedly loved, and of whom she had been un- 
deniably jealous, slighted her more openly than ever, and 
offered to her rival before her face undisguised and passion- 
ate homage ; and yet Lady Mitford maintained perfect 
composure ; and though she was occasionally distraite, the 
expression of her face indicated anything but painful 
thoughts as the cause of her abstraction. Her serene 
beauty was particularly impressive, and there was an inde- 
finable added attraction in the calm unconscious grace of 
her manner. The quick instinct of hate warned her enemy 
that she was losing ground, and she listened eagerly, while 
she never interrupted her conversation with Sir Charles, for 
an indication of the cause. It came quickly. Alsager's 
letter was mentioned, and Lady Mitford imparted its con- 
tents to Captain Bligh, who had dropped in late, and had 
not heard her communication to Sir Charles. She looked 
awav from Mrs Hammond while she spoke, and while she 
and Bligh discussed the letter, Sir Peregrine's state, Lau- 
2'ence's detention at Kiiockholt, and other topics connected 
with the subject. It was fortunate that she did not see 
Laura's face ; the sight would have enlightened her pro- 
bably, but at the cost of infinite perplexity and distress, 
deepening and darkening a coming sorrow, swooping now 
very near to her unconscious head. The look, which would 
have been a revelation, lasted only a moment. It did not 
deform the beauty of the face, which it lighted up with a 
lurid glare of baffled passion and raging jealousy ; for that 
beauty owed nothing to expression — its charm, its power 
were entirely sensuous ; but it changed it from the seduc- 
tive loveliness of a wicked woman to the evil splendour of 
a remorseless devil. If Lady Mitford had seen it, the light 



LORD DOLLAMORF/S COUNSEL. 2i){) 

w bifli its lurid fury would have flashed upon her might 
have been vivid enough to show her that in the rage and 
torment whence it sprung, she was avenged ; but Greorgie 
was not the sort of woman to be comforted by that view of 
the subject. 

Lady Mitford made her request of Sir Charles, and was 
refused more peremptorily than her letter to Laurence 
Alsager had implied. The increasing rudeness of Mitford 
to his wife was characteristic of the man. He had neither 
courage, tact, nor breeding ; and when he went wrong, he 
did so doggedly, and without making any attempt to miti- 
gate or disguise the ugliness of the aberration. His de- 
meanour to his wife at this juncture exhibited a pleasing- 
combination of viciousness and stupidity. He was mad- 
dened by the near inevitability of Laura's departure. The 
Hammonds must leave Redmoor, and there was no possi- 
bility of their going to town. Mr Hammond's physician 
had prescribed Devonshire air, and in Devonshire he must 
be permitted to remain. Sir Charles heartily cursed the 
poor old gentleman for the ill-health by which he and Laura 
had so largely profited ; but curses could do nothing, — the 
Hammonds must go. He must be separated from Laura 
for a time, unless indeed Hammond would be kind enough 
to die, or she would be devoted enough to elope with him. 
The latter alternative presented itself to Sir Charles only 
in the vaguest and remotest manner, and but for a moment. 
He had become very much of a brute, and he had always 
been somewhat of a fool ; but he had not reached the point 
of folly at which he could have supposed that Laura Ham- 
mond would forfeit the wealth for which she had sold her- 
self, and which in the course of nature must soon fall into 
her hands, for any inducement of sentiment or passion. 
He had been bi-ooding over these grievances alone in the 
library, when Georgie, with whom he had not exchanged a 
dozen words for as many days, came in, and spoke to him, 
with a miserable affectation of unconsciousness, about a 
wish to visit her old home before their return to town for 
the season. He refused with curt incivility and obstinacy ; 
and it is probable that the ensuing few minutes might have 
brought about a decided quarrel between the husband and 



270 GUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

wife, Lad not Captain Bligh entered the room abruptly, and 
called out, apparently without noticing Lady Mitford's pre- 
sence : 

" I say, Mitford, you're -wanted. Hammond is ever so 
much worse. Gifford has been round to the stables to get 
a groom sent off for Dr Wilkinson. — I beg your pardon, 
Lady Mitford,' — I ought to have mentioned that Mrs 
Hammond's maid is looking for you" 

Confusion reigned at Bedmoor all that day, which seemed 
likely, during many hours, to have been the last of Mr 
Hammond's life. Sir Charles felt that his morning medi- 
tation had had something prophetic in it ; here was the 
other alternative almost within his grasp. At all events, 
whether he died a little sooner or lingered a little longer, 
Mr Hammond must remain at Redrnoor. The evil day was 
postponed. Lady Mitford simply devoted herself to the 
invalid, and behaved towards Mrs Hammond with mag- 
nanimous kindness and consideration, which might have 
disarmed even Laura, had her inveterate coquetry and love 
of intrigue been the only animating motives of her conduct. 
She might have sacrificed the lesser passions to an impulse 
of the kind, but the greater — no. So she accepted all the 
delicate kindness which poor Georgie did her, she accepted 
the role of devoted and afflicted wife assigned to her before 
the household, and she hardened her heart against every 
appeal of her feebly-speaking conscience. "With the fol- 
lowing day the aspect of things changed a little. Mr Ham- 
mond rallied; the doctors considered him likely to get over 
the attack ; and Lord Dollamore arrived at Eedmoor. 

" I didn't hear anything from anybody, Mitford, and so 
I came on according to previous arrangement," said his 
lordship, as he greeted his host and looked about for Lady 
Mitford. 

Lord Dollamore had strictly adhered to his programme. 
He never burdened his mind with the pursuit of two 
objects at the same time. He had completely disposed of 
the business which had called him away, and with which 
the present narrative has no concern ; and he had come 
back to Redmoor as a kind of divertissement before the 
serious business of the season should commence. He 



LORD DOLLAMORE 5 S COUNSEL. 271 

entertained no doubt that he could resume his relation 
with Lady Mitford precisely at the point which it had at- 
tained when he left Redmoor. G-eorgie was not a fickle 
woman in anything ; rather methodical, he had observed, 
in trifles. The impression he had made was likely to have 
been aided rather than lessened by the intermediate course 
of events at Redmoor. On the whole he felt tolerably 
confident ; besides, he did not very much care. Lord 
Dollamore's was a happy temperament — a fortunate con- 
stitution, in fact — always supposing that life on this planet 
was tout potage, and nothing to follow. He could be 
pleasantly excited by the ardour of pursuit, and moderately 
elated by success ; but failure had no terrors for him ; he 
never fell into the weakness of caring sufficiently about 
anything to furnish fate with the gratification of disap- 
pointing him, in the heart-sickening or enraging sense of 
that elastic expression. 

The Hammonds and Lord Dollamore were the only 
people now at Bedmoor who could be strictly called guests. 
Captain Bligh was rather more at home than Sir Charles ; 
and one or two stragglers, who had remained after the 
general break-up, addicted themselves to the versatile and 
good-humoured vaurien, and were generally to be found in 
his company. Accordingly, and as he anticipated, Lord 
Dollamore found Lady Mitford alone in, the drawing-room 
when he quitted the delectable society of the gentlemen. 
Mrs Hammond had left the dinner-table, proclaiming her 
intention of at once resuming her place by her husband's 
side — a declaration by which she secured two purposes : 
one, the avoidance of a tete-a-tete with Lady Mitford ; the 
other, the prevention of a visit by her hostess to the sick- 
room, on any supposition that Mr Hammond might require 
extra attention. During dinner she had been quiet and 
subdued ; her manner, in short, had been perfectly comme- 
il-faut, and she was dressed for her part to perfection. She 
had kept alive Lady Mitford's gentler feelings towards her ; 
she had forged a fresh chain for Sir Charles, who, like 
" Joey B.," had great admiration for proceedings which be 
considered " devilish sly ; " and she had afforded Dollamore 



272 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

much amusement of the kind which he peculiarly ap- 
preciated — quiet, ill-natured, and philosophical. 

It does not much signify whether Laura went to her 
husband's sick-room at all, or how long she remained there ; 
but there was some significance in the fact, which Lord 
Dollamore found eminently convenient and agreeable, that 
Sir Charles sent a footman to tell my lady that he had 
business to attend to in the library, and requested she would 
send his coffee thither ; and there was a fortunate coinci- 
dence in the adjournment of Captain Bligh and his com- 
panions to the smoking-room, without any embarrassing 
drawing-room parade at all. 

As Lord Dollamore entered the room, Lady Mitford was 
bidding good-night to Mr Hammond's little daughter, to 
whom she had been uniformly kind since the mysterious 
departure of Miss Gillespie. Lord Dollamore had hardly 
ever seen the child, whom her stepmother wholly neglected, 
leaving her to the care of her maid, if the foreign damsel 
who officiated in that enviable capacity chose to take care 
of her, — and to chance, if she did not. Laura Hammond 
hardly knew that Lady Mitford had taken the child under 
her kindly protection, and had kept her with her during 
many of the hoxvrs of each day which she was not obliged 
to devote to her social duties ; but the child's father knew 
the fact, and felt grateful to the one woman, after his senile 
fashion, without daring to express or even to feel any 
condemnation of the other. As the child left the room, 
Lord Dollamore looked after her for a moment before he 
closed the door ; then he went up to Lady Mitford's sofa 
by the fireplace, and said quietly : 

" Mrs Hammond is as admirable as a stepmother as in all 
the other relations of life, I fancy." 

G-eorgie made no reply, and he did not appear to expect 
any. Then came Sir Charles's message ; and Dollamore 
watched Lady Mitford closely during its delivery, and until 
the servant had left the room, carrying a single cup of 
coffee on a salver. 

" Does Mrs Hammond disdain that celestial beverage ? " 
he asked then, in a voice so full of meaning that Ladv 



LORD DOLLAMORE'S COUNSEL. 270 

Mitford started and blushed crimson. This symptom of 
anger did not disconcert Lord Dollamore in the least. He 
had made up his mind to use the first opportunity which 
should present itself, and it had come. Of course she 
would start and blush, no matter how he phrased his mean- 
ing ; but the start was rather graceful, and the blush was 
decidedly becoming. 

" I don't know. I — what do you mean, Lord Dollamore? 
Mrs Hammond has gone to her room ; you heard what she 
said ? " 

" I did ; and I don't believe a word of it. ' My poor 
dear Hammond ' will have very little of her society this 
evening. Lady Mitford," he said, with a sudden change of 
tone, " how long do you intend to endure this kind of thing? 
Now I know what you are going to say ; " — he put up his 
hand with a deferential but decided gesture, to prevent her 
speaking ; — " I am quite aware that I have no business to 
talk to you about Mitford and Mrs Hammond. I could 
repeat all that conventional catechism about the whole duty 
of men and women without a blunder ; but it's all non- 
sense — all hypocrisy, which is worse. I am a man of the 
world, and you are a woman of the world, or nearly : you 
will very soon be completely so. Allow me to anticipate 
the period at which your education will be finished, and to 
speak to you with perfect frankness." 

Greorgie looked at him in complete bewilderment. What 
did this new tone which he had assumed mean ? — To insult 
her ? No ; she had no reason to think, to fear anything of 
that kind. Had he not done her at least one substantial 
service — had he not saved her from ridicule, from affording 
her enemy a triumph ? Had not his manner been always 
respectful, and, in his indolent way, kind? Even while he 
spoke of her as "nearly" a woman of the world, she knew 
that he was thinking of her newness, her ignorance of that 
very world, and of life. Perhaps she should only expose 
herself to ridicule on his part now, if she shrank from hear- 
ing him. It was certain that things had gone too far — the 
state of affairs had become too evident — for her to affect 
indignation or assume prudery, without making herself 
supremely ridiculous ; besides, there was already a tacit 

18 



274 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



confidence between them, which she could neither ignore 
nor recall. She wished vaguely that Colonel Alsager had 
been there ; then, that some one might come into the room ; 
but she felt, amid her perplexity and perturbation, a strong 
desire to hear what he had to say to her — to learn what 
was the view which a man so completely of society, and so 
capable of interpreting its judgment, took of her position 
and prospects. Nervously, yet not unreadily, she assented ; 
and Lord Dollamore, standing on the hearth-rug and look- 
ing down at her bent head and drooping eyelids, spoke in a 
low tone : 

" Tou are no match for Mrs Hammond, Lady Mitford. 
Tou would not be, even if you did not labour under the in- 
surmountable disadvantage of being Sir Charles's wife. 
That must be as evident to yourself — for you are wonder- 
fully sensible and free from vanity — as it is to the lookers- 
on, who proverbially see most of the game. Tou have 
feeling and delicacy, and she is encumbered by no such ob- 
stacles to the attainment of any purpose she may set before 
her. But because you can't fight her on any ground, that's 
no reason why you should let her make you wretched, and, 
above all, ridiculous." 

" She cannot. I—" 

G-eorgie had looked up with an angry beautiful flush on 
her cheeks and a sparkle in her eyes, which Mrs Hammond 
could not have managed by any contrivance to excel. Eut 
when she saw the look that was fixed on her, her eyes fell, 
and she covered her face with her hands. It was not a 
bold glance ; it was quiet, powerful, and pitying — pitying 
from Dollamore's point of view, not of her grief, but of her 
" greenness." 

" She can, and she has, Lady Mitford ; but it will be 
your own fault, and a very silly fault too, if she has that 
power much longer. Look the truth in the face ; don't be 
afraid of it. Tou have lost Mitford's affections, I suppose 
you will say ; and there never was any one so miserable • 
and so forth. It's quite a mistake. Mitford never had 
any affections — he had, and has, passions ; and they will be 
won and lost many and many a time, long after you will 
have ceased even to notice in what direction they may hap. 



LORD DOLLAMOKE'S COUNSEL. 275 

pen to be straying. Because your reign was short, you 
fancy Mrs Hammond's will be eternal. Pooh ! It will 
come to a timely end with the beginning of the opera- 
season ; and nothing will remain to her of it but a rent in 
her reputation — which even that endurable material will 
hardly bear — and much mortification. Tour reign is over, 
as you believe ; and we will grant, for the sake of argu- 
ment, that you are right. Well, what remains to you after 
this terrible imaginary bereavement of Mitford's affections ? 
Why. Mitford's fortune, Mitford's rank, and a position 
which, if you were under his influence, might very possibly 
come to grief ; but which you, free and blameless, — a very 
pleasant combination, let me tell you, and one that many a 
woman would gladly purchase at the price of a little senti- 
mental blighting, — will elevate and dignify. If you will 
only realize your position, Lady Mitford, and act with good 
sense, you will have as brilliant a destiny before you as any 
woman not afflicted with a mission could possibly desire." 

The dream she had dreamed — the home-life her fancy had 
pictured — came back in a moment to Greorgie's mental 
vision ; and she said, in a tone of keen distress : 

" Don't say these things, Lord Dollamore. I know you 
don't mean them ; but they sound cold and wicked. How 
could I care for any position ? and what is wealth to 
me?" 

" Pretty much what it is to every rational being, Lady 
Mitford — happiness ; or if not quite the real sterling thing, 
the very best plated or paste imitation of it procurable in 
this state of existence. But you have not only wealth, 
rank, position, and a career of fashion and pleasure to look 
forward to ; there are other things in your future. Think 
of your youth, estimate your beauty ; — stay — no, you can- 
not do that ; you never could conceive the effect it must 
produce on men who are gentlemen and have taste. If 
you ever learn to use its full power, you will be as danger- 
ous as Helen or Cleopatra." 

He had spoken in a calm business-like manner, which 
disguised the real freedom of his speech ; but he lingered 
just a little over the last few words, and then went on 
hurriedly : 



270 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

" What charm do you think Mrs Hammond, or all the 
women like her — who swarm like vipers in society — will 
have against you ? I am not flattering you, Lady Mitford, 
- — you know that ; I am merely telling you the simple truth. 
Tour experience has been narrow, and you think all, or 
most men, are like Mitford. Because she has beaten you 
in this inglorious strife, do you think she could rival you in 
a grander and higher warfare ? " 

" Inglorious ! " she said, amazed. " Oh, Lord Dollamore, 
he is my husband ! " 

Dollamore smiled — not at all a pleasant smile ; there 
was too much contemptuous toleration in it 

" Tour husband ! Tes, he is your htisband ; but is he 
therefore any the less a commonplace and vulgar-minded 
person ? Tou are too clever, Lady Mitford " (he under- 
stood the art of praising a woman for those qualities which, 
she does not possess), "to believe in or repeat the stupid 
methodistical cant which would limit a woman's perceptions, 
sympathies, and associations, to her husband only, — a worse 
than Eastern bondage ; for it does not involve indulgence, 
and it sins against knowledge. Tou are not going to ' live 
forgotten and die forlorn,' because you have married a man 
who is certainly not much better than his neighbours, and 
who is really no worse. Of course he does not suit you, 
and he never would have suited you, if Mrs Hammond had 
never existed. Tou would have found that out a little 
later, and rather less unpleasantly, perhaps ; but why not 
make the best of the early date of the discovery, which, 
after all, has its advantages ? Mitford does not ' under- 
stand ' you — that's the phrase, I think. Well, it's no worse 
because he does ' understand ' some one of a lower calibre 
which is wonderfully like his own. He won't annoy you in 
any way, I daresay ; he is ill at ease in society at the best, 
and he will keep out of it, — out of good society, I mean — 
your set. He will find resources at his own level, I dare- 
say. Then do not trouble yourself about him ; by and by, 
I mean, when the Hammond will be nowhere. Of course 
that business vexes you now ; people always are vexed in 
the country by things they would never care about in town. 
It's the trees and the moon and. the boredom, I suppose. 



LORD BOLLAMOkVs COUNSEL. 277 

Make up your mind not to trouble yourself about him ; 
study the advantages of your position well, and determine 
to take the fullest possible enjoyment of them all." 

He paused and looked at her, with a covert anxiety in 
his gaze. See sat quite still, and she was very pale ; but 
she did not say a word. Her thoughts were painful and 
confused. Only one thing was clear to her : this man's 
counsel was very different from that which Colonel Alsager 
had given her. Which of the two would be the easier to fol- 
low ? Georgie had strayed — at least a little way — into a dan- 
gerous path, when she acknowledged the possibility that it 
might be a struggle to act upon Alsager's, and might be 
eveu possible to follow Lord Dollamore's counsel. The 
pale face was very still; but Dollamore thought he could 
read indecision in it. He drew a little nearer to her, and 
bent a little more towards her, as he said : 

" Do you really believe — do you even make-believe — that 
love is never more to be yours ? Put such a cruel delusion 
far from you. Tou find it hard to live without love now ; 
you grieve because you cannot keep the old feeling alive in 
your own heart, as keenly as you grieve because it has died 
in your husband's. Tou will find it impossible in the time 
to come. Then, when the tribute of passionate devotion is 
offered to you, you will not always refuse to accept it. 
Then, if one who has seen you in these dark days, radiant 
in beauty and unequalled in goodness, — one whom you 
have taught to believe in the reality of — " 

A servant entered the room, and handed Lady Mitford a 
small twisted note. It was from Sir Charles, and merely 
said, " Come to me at once — to the library." 



278 



CHAPTER XXIV 

mr effingham's progress. 

"When Mr Effingham returned to town after his signal dis- 
comfiture at Redmoor "by Miss Gillespie, he had only two 
objects in view : one to prevent Griffiths finding out that 
he had gone so near to achieving success, but yet had failed ; 
the other to find out whither the young woman, who had 
so cunningly betrayed him, had betaken herself. The first- 
was not very difficult. The meeting with the object of his 
search down at a country-house far away in Devon was too 
improbable to present itself to a far more brilliantly gifted 
person than Mr Griffiths ; while the receipt of five sove- 
reigns (Sir Charles's donation had this time been represented 
at twenty-five pounds only) gave that gentleman an in- 
creased opinion of his friend's powers of persuasion, and 
rendered him hopeful for the future. 

The accomplishment of the second object was, however, 
a different matter. Mr Effingham's innate cunning taught 
him that after all he had said to Miss Gillespie — or Lizzie 
Ponsford — about the source of his instructions, the com- 
pany of her old acquaintances — Messrs Lyons, Griffiths, 
Crockett, and Dunks — was about the last she would be 
likely to affect ; and yet in their society only would he 
have opportunities of seeking her. Through the oft-threaded 
mazes of that tangled web, in and out, from haunt to haunt, 
Mr Effingham once more wended his way, — asking every 
one, prying into every corner, listening to every convers- 
ation, — all to no purpose. He began to think that the 
object of his search must have departed from her original 
intention, and instead of coming up to London, have halted 
on the way ; but then, what could she have done alone, un- 
aided, without resources, in any provincial town? Mr 
Effingham took to frequenting the Devonshire public-houses 



mk eppingham's progress. 279 

and coffee-shops, — queer London holes kept by Devonshire 
people, who yet preserved a little clannish spirit, who took 
in a Devon paper, and whose houses were houses-of-call for 
stray children of the far West, sojourning for business or 
pleasure in London. Many a long talk was there in Long 
Acre or Smithfield, surrounded by the foetid atmosphere 
and the dull rumblings of metropolitan life, of the Exe and 
the Dart, of the wooded coast of Dawlish and the lovely 
bay of Babbicombe, of purple moor and flashing cataract, of 
wrestling-matches and pony-fairs. The cads who dropped 
in for an accidental half-pint stared with wonder at the 
brown countrymen, on whom the sun-tan yet remained, 
who talked a language they had never heard, in an accent 
they could not understand ; who had their own jokes and 
their own allusions, in which the jolly landlord and his wife 
bore their part, but which were utterly unintelligible to the 
cockney portion of the customers. In these houses, among 
the big burly shoulders of the assembled Devonians, Mr 
Effingham's perky little head was now constantly seen. 
They did not know who he was ; but as he was invariably 
polite and good-natured, took the somewhat ponderous pro- 
vincial badinage with perfect suavity, and was always ready 
to drink or smoke with any of them, they tolerated his pre- 
sence and answered his questions respecting the most recent 
arrivals from their native county civilly enough. But all 
was unavailing ; to none of them was the personal appear- 
ance of Miss GKUespie known. The presence of any stranger 
in their neighbourhood would not have passed unnoticed ; 
but of the few sojourners who were described to him, none 
corresponded in the least to that person whom he sought 
so anxiously. 

"Would she not attempt to persevere in the new line of 
life which she had filled at Eedmoor and succeeded in so 
admirably ? As governess and companion she had been 
seemingly happy and comfortable ; as governess and com- 
panion she would probably again try her fortune. Forth- 
with Mr Effingham bad a wild desire to secure the services 
of a desirable young person to superintend the studies of 
his supposititious niece ; and Mrs Barbauldson, who kept a 
" governess agency," and Messrs Chasuble and Eotchet, 



280 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

who combined the providing of governesses and tutors 
with " scholastic transfers," vulgarly known as " swopping 
schools," the engagement of curates, and the sale of clerical 
vestments and ecclesiastical brass-ware, were soon familiar- 
ized with Mr Effingham's frequent presence. He dropped 
in constantly at their establishments, and took the liveliest 
interest in the registers, looking through not merely the 
actual list of candidates for employment, but searching the 
books for the past three months. He paid his half-crown 
fees with great liberality, or else the manner in which he 
used to bounce in and out the waiting-room and examine 
the features of the ladies there taking their turn to detail 
the list of their accomplishments to the clerk, was, to say 
the least of it, irregular, and contrary to the regulations of 
the establishment. But all to no purpose, — he could learn 
nothing of any one in the remotest degree resembling Miss 
Gillespie : his search among the governess-agencies had 
been as fiitile as his visits to the Devonshire public-houses, 
and all Mr Effingham's time and trouble had been spent in 
vain. 

"What should he try next ? He really did not know. 
He had, ever since his visit to Redmoor, been rather shy 
of Mr Griffiths, fearing lest that worthy person might learn 
more than it was necessary, in Mr Effingham's opinion, he 
should know. Griffiths was to him a very useful jackal, 
and it was not meet that the jackal's opinion of the lion's 
sagacity and strength should be in any way diminished. 
Chance had so far favoured him that Mr Griffiths had re- 
cently been absent from town, having accepted a temporary 
engagement of an important character, as occasional crou- 
pier, occasional doorkeeper, to a travelling band of gamblers, 
Avho were importing the amusing games of Erench. hazard 
and roulette into some of the most promising towns in the 
Midland Counties. 

One night Mr Effingham was sitting in a very moody 
state at " Johnson's," sipping his grog and wondering 
vaguely what would be the next best move to make in his 
pursuit of Miss Gillespie, when raising his eyes, they en- 
countered Mr Griffiths, — Mr Griffiths, and not Mr Griffiths. 
Gone was the tall shiny hat, its place occupied by a know- 



MR EFFINGHAM* S PROGRESS. 281 

ing billy-cock ; gone were the rusty old clothes, Avhile in 
their place were garments of provincial cut indeed, but 
obviously costly material ; a slouch poncho greatcoat kept 
Mr Griffiths's body warm, while Mr Griffiths's boots, very 
much contrary to their usual custom, were sound and 
whole, and hid Mr Griffiths'' s feet from the garish eye of 
day Moreover, Mr Griffiths's manner, usually a pleasing 
compound of the bearing of Ugolino and the demeanour of 
the Banished Lord, was, for him, remarkably sprightly 
He threw open the swing-door, and brought in his body 
squarely, instead of butting vaguely in with the tall hat, as 
was his usual custom ; he walked down the centre of the 
room, instead of shuffling round by the wall; and advancing 
to the box in which Mr Effingham was seated in solitary 
misery, he clapped him on the back and said, " D'Ossay, 
my buck, how are you ? " 

The appearance, the manner, and the swaggering speech 
had a great effect on Mr Effingham. He looked up, and 
after shaking hands with his friend, remarked, " You've 
been doin' it up brown, Griffiths, — you have. They must 
have suffered for this down about Hull and Grimsby, I 
should think ? " And with a comprehensive sweep of his 
forefinger he took in Griffiths's outer man from his hat to 
his boots. 

" Well, it warn't bad," said Mr Griffiths, with a bland 
smile. " The yokels bled wonderful, and the traps kept 
off very well, considerin' I'm pretty full of ochre, I am ; 
and so far as a skiv or two goes, I'm ready to stand friend 
to them as stood friend to me, D'Ossay, my boy. INo ? 
]S"ot hard up ? Have a drink then, and tell us what's been 
going on." 

The drink was ordered, and Mr Effingham began to 
dilate on the various phases of his pursuit of Lizzie Pons- 
ford. As he proceeded, Mr Griffiths went through a series 
of pantomimic gestures, which with him were significant of 
attempts to arouse a dormant memory. He rubbed his 
head, he scratched his ear, he looked up with a singularly 
vacant air at the pendent gas-light, he regarded his boots 
as though they were strange objects come for the first time 



282 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

within his ken. At length, when Mr Effingham ceased, he 
spoke. 

" It must have been her ! " said he, ungrammatically but 
emphatically, at the same time bringing his fist down 
heavily on the table to express his assertion. 

" What must have been her, Griffiths ? " inquired Mr 
Effingham, who was growing irritated by the extremely in- 
dependent tone of his usually deferential subordinate, — 
" why don't you talk out, instead of snuffling to yourself 
and makin' those faces at me ? What must have been 
her ? " 

Successful though he was for the time being, Mr Grif- 
fiths had been too long subservient to the angry little man 
who addressed him to be able to shake off his bonds. He 
fell back into his old state of : submission, grumbling as he 
said: 

" You're a naggin' me as usual, D'Ossay, you are ! Can't 
let a cove think for a minute and try and recollect what 
he'd 'eard, — you can't. What I was tryin' to bring back 
was this — there's a cove as I know, a theatrical gent, gets 
engagements for lakers and that, and. provides managers of 
provincial gaffs with companies and so on. He was down 
at Hull, he was, and he come into our place one night with 
Mr Munmorency of the T. H. there, as often give us a 
look up ; and when business was over — we was rather slack 
that night — -we went round to his 'otel to have a glass. 
And while we was drinkin' it and talkin' over old times, 
he says to me, ' Wasn't you in a swim with old Lyons and 
Tony Butler -once ? ' he says. ' Not once,' I says, ' but a 
good many times,' I says. ' I thought so,' he says ; ' and 
wasn't there a handsome gal named Ponsford, did a lot of 
business for them ? ' he says. ' There was,' I says ; ' for- 
tune-tellin' and Mysterious-Lady business, and all that 
gaff,' I says. ' That's it,' he says ; ' I couldn't think where 
I'd seen her before.' ' When did you see her last ? ' I says. 
' About three weeks ago,' he says, ' she come to me on a 
matter of business, and claimed acquaintance with me ; and 
though I knew the face and the name, I could not think 
where I had seen her before.' " 



me effingham's pbogress. 283 

" Didn't you ask him anything more about her ? " said 
Mr Effingham. 

" 3STo, I didn't. 'Twas odd, wasn't it ? but I didn't. Tou 
see I wasn't on your lay then, D'Ossay, my boy, and I was 
rather tired with hookin' in the 'arf-crowns and calc'latin' 
the bettin' on the ins and outs, and I was enjoyin' my 
smoke and lookin' forward to my night's rest." 

" What a sleepy-headed cove you are, Griffiths ! " said 
Mr Effingham with great contempt. " What do you tell 
me this for, if this is to be the end ? " 

" But this ain't to be the end, D'Ossay, dear ! Mr 
Trapman's come back by this time, I dessay, and we'll go 
and look him up to-morrow and see whether he can tell us 
anything of any real good about this gal. He's a first-rate 
hand is Trapman, as knowin' as a ferret ; and it won't do 
to let him know what our game is, else he might go in and 
spoil it and work it for himself. So just you hold your 
tongue, if we see him, D'Ossay, and leave me to manage the 
palaver with him." 

Mr Effingham gave an ungracious assent to his com- 
panion's suggestion, and, practical always, asked him to 
name a time for this meeting on the next day. Mr Grif- 
fiths suggested twelve o'clock as convenient for a glass of 
ale and a biscuit, and for finding Mr Trapman at home. So 
the appointment was made for that hour ; and after a little 
chat on subjects irrelevant to the theme of this story, the 
worthy pair parted. 

The biscuit and the — several — glasses of ale had been 
discussed the next day, and Mr Griffiths was maunderingly 
hinting his desire to remain at Johnson's for some time 
longer, when Mr Effingham, burning with impatience, and 
with the semblance of authority in him, insisted upon his 
quondam parasite, but present equal, convoying him to the 
interview with Mr Trapman. Mr Trapman's Dramatic 
Agency Office, so notified in blue letters on a black board, 
was held at the Pizarro Coffee-house in Beak Street, Drury 
Lane. A dirty, bygone, greasy, used-up little place the 
Pizarro Coffee-house, with its fly-blown playbills hang- 
ing over its wire-blind, its greasy coffee-stained lithograph 
of Signor Poleno, the celebrated clown, with his performing 



284 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

clogs ; its moss-covered basket, which looked as if it had 
been made in a property-room, containing two obviously 
fictitious eggs. The supporters of the Pizarro were Mr 
Trapman's clients, and Mr Trapman's clients became per- 
force supporters of the Pizarro. When an actor was, as 
he described it, " out of collar," he haunted Beak Street, 
took " one of coffee and a rasher" at the Pizarro, and 
entered his name on Mr Trapman's books. The mere fact 
of undergoing that process seemed to revivify him at once. 
He was on Trapman's books, and would probably be sum- 
moned at an hour's notice to give 'em his Hamlet at South 
Shields : a capital fellow, Trapman ! — safe to get something 
through him ; and then the candidate for provincial histri- 
onic honour would poodle his hair under his hat and take a 
glance at himself in the strip of looking-glass that adorned 
the window of the Roscius' Head, and would wonder when 
that heiress who should see him from the stage-box O.P., 
and faint on her mother's neck, exclaiming, " Fitzroy Bell- 
ville for my husband, or immediate suicide for me ! " would 
arrive. 

There was a strange clientele always gathered round Mr 
Trapman's door so long as the great agent was visible, viz. 
from ten till five ; old men in seedy camlet cloaks with red 
noses and bleared eyes — " heavy fathers " these — and cruel 
misers and villa-nous stewards and hard-swearing admirals 
and libertine peers ; dark sunken-eyed gray men, with 
cheeks so blue from constant shaving that they look as if 
they had been stained by woad ; virtuous and vicious lovers; 
heroes of romance and single walking-gentlemen ; comic 
men with funny faces and funny figures, ready to play the 
whole night through from six till twelve, in four pieces, and 
to interpolate a " variety of singing and dancing " between 
each ; portly matrons — Emilias and Belvideras now — who 
have passed their entire life upon the stage, and who at five 
years of age first made their appearance as flying fairies; sharp 
wizen-faced little old ladies, who can still "make-up young 
at nierht," and who are on the look-out for the smart sou- 

• 

Irette and singing-chambermaid's line ; and heavy tragedians 
■ — these most difficult of all to provide for — with books full 



mr Effingham's progress. 285 

of testimonials extracted from the potential criticisms of 
provincial journals. The ladies looked in, made their in- 
quiries as to " any news," and went away to their homes 
again ; but the gentlemen remained about all day long, 
lounging in Beak Street, leaning against posts, amicably 
fencing together with their ashen sticks, gazing at the play- 
bills of the metropolitan theatres, and wondering when their 
names will appear there. 

Through a little knot of these upholders of the mirror, 
Mr Effingham and Mr Griffiths made their way up the dark 
dirty staircase past the crowded landing, until they came 
into the sanctuary of the office. Here was a dirty-faced 
boy acting as clerk, who exhibited a strong desire to enter 
their names and requirements in a large leather-covered 
book before him ; but Griffiths caiight sight of Mr Trapman 
engaged in deep and apparently interesting conversation 
with a short dark man in a braided overcoat, and a tele- 
graphic wink of recognition passed between them. As it 
was the boy's duty to notice everything, he saw the wink, 
and left them without further molestation, until Mr Trap- 
man had got rid of his interlocutor, and had come over to 
talk to them. 

" Well, and how are you ? " said he, slapping Mr Griffiths 
on the back. — " Servant, sir," to Mr Effingham. — " And 
how are you ? " Slaps repeated. 

" East rate," said Mr Griffiths, poking him in the ribs. 
" This is Mr Effingham, friend of mine, and a re-markably 
downy card ! " 

'' Wouldn't be a friend of yours if he wasn't, said jMr 
Trapman, with another bow to D'Ossay. "Well, and what's 
up ? Given up the gaff, I suppose. Seven to nine ! all 
equal ! — no more of that just now, eh ? " 

" No ; not in town. Sir Charles Kowan and Colonel 
Mayne at Scotland Yard, they know too much, — they do. 
No ; I ain't here on business." 

" No ? " said Mr Trapman playfully. " I thought you 
might be goin' in for the heavy father, Griffiths, or the 
comic countryman, since your tour in the provinces." 

Mr Griffiths grinned, and declared that Mr Trapman was 



286 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

" a chaffin' him." " My friend, Mr D'Ossay— Effingham is 
more in that line," he said ; " a neat figure, and a smart 
way he's got." 

" Charles Surface, Mercushow, Boderigo, — touch-and-go 
comedy, — that's his line," said Mr Trapman, glancing at 
Mr Effingham. " One fi'-pun-note of the Bank of England, 
and he opens at Sunderland next week." 

Mr Effingham had been staring in mute wonder at this 
professional conversation ; but he understood the last sen- 
tence, and thought enough time had been spent in discuss- 
ing what they didn't want to know. So he put on his 
impetuous air and said to Griffiths, " Go in at him now ! " 

Thus urged, and taking his cue at once, Mr Griffiths said, 
" !No, no ; you've mistaken our line. What we want of 
you is a little information. Oh, we're prepared to pay the 
fee ! " he added, seeing Mr Trapman's face grow grave 
under a rapid impression of wasted time ; " only — no fake- 
ment ; let's have it gospel, or not at all." 

" Fire away ! " said Mr Trapman. " I'm here to be 
pumped — for a sovereign ! " 

The coin was produced, and handed over. 

" Now," said Mr Trapmam, having tested it with his 
teeth, and then being satisfied, stretched out his arm in 
imitation of a pump-handle, " go to work ! " 

" Tou recollect," said Griffiths, " telling me, when we 
met down at Hull, that one of our old lot had been to see 
you lately — a girl called Lizzie Ponsford." 

" I do perfectly." 

" It's about her we want to know — that's all." 

" It ain't much to tell, but it was curous, — that it was. 
It's six weeks ago now, as I was a-sittin' in this old shop, 
finishin' some letters for the post, when I looked up and 
saw a female in the doorway with a veil on. I was goin' on 
with my letters, takin' no notice, for there's always some- 
body here, in and out all day they are, when the female 
lifted up her finger first warning-like, like the ghosts on 
the stage, and then pointin' to Tom, the boy there, mo- 
tioned that he should go out of the room. I was a little 
surprised ; for though I had enough of that sort of thing 
many years ago, I've got out of it now. I thought it was a 



mr Effingham's progress. 287 

case of smite ; I did indeed. However, I sealed up the 
letters, and told Tom to take 'em to the post ; and then the 
i'emale came in, shuttin' the door behind her. When she 
lifted her veil, I thought I knew the face, but couldn't tell 
where ; however she soon reminded me of that first-rate 
gaff, in — where was it ? — out Oxford Street way, where she 
did the Mysterious Lady, and Seenor Cocqualiqui the con- 
jurin', and Ted Spicer sung comic songs. I remembered 
her at once then, and asked her what she wanted. ' An 
engagement,' she says. ' All right,' I says ; ' what for ? ' 
' Singin'-chambermaid, walkin'-lady, utility, anything,' she 
says. ' "Walkin'-lady, to grow into leadin' high comedy, 's 
your line, my dear,' I says : ' you're too tall for chamber- 
maids, and too good for utility. Now, let's look up a place 
for you.' I was goin' to my books, but she stopped me. 
' I don't want a place,' she says ; ' I ain't goin' to stop in 
England ; all I want from you,' she says, ' is two or three 
letters of introduction to managers in New York. You've 
seen me before the public ; and though you've never seen 
me act, you could tell I wasn't likely to be nervous or 
stammer, or forget my words.' ' No fear of that,' I says. 
' Very well then,' she says, ' as I don't want to hang about 
when I get there, but want them to give me an appearance 
at once, just you write me the letters, and ' — puttin' two 
sovereigns on the table — ' make 'em as strong as you can 
for the money.' Oh, a- clever girl she is ! I sat down to 
write the letters, and in the middle of the first I looked up, 

and I says, ' The bearer, Miss — , what name shall I say P ' 

' Leave it blank, Mr Trapman, please,' says she, burstin' out 
laughin' ; ' I haven't decided what my name's to be,' she 
says ; ' and when I have, I think I can fill it in so that no 
one will know it ain't your writinV So I gave her the 
letters and she went away ; and that's my story." 

Mr Griffiths looked downhearted, and was apparently 
afraid that his patron would imagine he had not had his 
money's worth ; but Mr Effingham, on the contrary, seemed 
in much better spirits, and thanked Mr Trapman, and pro- 
posed an adjournment to the Eougepot close by in Salad 
Yard, where they had their amicable glasses of ale, and dis- 
cussed the state of the theatrical profession generally. 



"Oo RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

"When they had hidden adieu to Mr Trap man and were 
walking away together, Mr Griffiths reverted to the subject 
of Miss Ponsford. 

" There's an end of that little game, I s'pose," said he ; 
" that document's lost to us for ever." 

" Wait ! " said Mr Effingham, with a grin ; " I ain't so 
sure of that. She's gone to New York, you see ; now I 
know every hole and corner in New York, and I'm known 
everywhere there, as well as any Yankee among them. I 
could hunt her up there fifty times easier than I could in 
London." 

" I daresay," said Mr Griffiths ; " hut you see there's one 
thing a trifle against that ; you ain't in New York." 

" But I could go there, I s'pose, stoopid ! " 

" Yes ; hut how, stoopid ? You can't pad the hoof over 
the sea ; and them steamers lay it on pretty thick, even in 
the steerage." 

" I'm goin' to America within the next week, Griffiths, and 
I intend a friend of mine to pay for my passage." 

" What ! the Bart, again ? "" 

" Exactly. The Bart, again ! " 

" And what game are you goin' to try on with him 
now ? " 

" Ah, Griffiths, that's my business, my boy. All you've 
got to do is to say good-bye to your D'Ossay to-night, for 
he's got to journey down to that thunderin' old Devonshire 
again to-morrow ; and before a week's out he intends to be 
on the briny sea." 

Eor the second time Mr Effingham travelled down to 
Redmoor, and obtained an interview with Sir Charles Mit- 
ford. He found that gentleman very stern and haughty on 
this occasion ; so Mr Effingham comported himself with 
great humility. 

" Now, sir," said Sir Charles, " you've broken your word 
for the second time. What do you want now ? " 

" I'm very sorry, Sir Charles — no intention of givin' of- 
fence, Sir Charles ; but — " 

" You've not got that — that horrible bill ? " 

" N-no, Sir Charles, I haven't ; but—" 



mr efpingham's progress. 289 

" Then what brings you here, sir ? more extortion P — ■ 
a further attempt to obtain money under false pre- 
tenees ? " 

'■ jS'o, no ; don't say that, Sir Charles. I'll tell you right 
off. I may as well make a clean breast of it. I can't find 
that document anywhere. I don't know where it is ; and 
I'm sick of cadgin' about and spongin' on you. Tou know 
when I first saw you up in town I told you I'd come from 
America. I was a fool to leave it. I did very well there ; 
and I want to go back." 

" Well, sir ? " 

" "Well, just as a last chance, do that for me. I've been 
true to you ; all that business of the young woman I man- 
aged first-rate — " 

" I. paid you for it." 

" So you did ; but try me once again." 

" Tell me exactly what you want now." 

" Pay my passage out. Don't even give me the money ; 
send some cove to pay it, and bring the ticket to me ; and 
he can come and see me off, if he likes, and give me a trifle 
to start with on the other side of the water ; and you'll 
never hear of me again." 

Sir Charles reflected a few moments ; then said, " "Will 
you go at once ? " 

'■' At once — this week ; sooner the better." 

" Have you made any inquiries about ships ? " 

" There's one sails from Liverpool on Friday." 

" On Friday — and to-day is Saturday ; just a week. I 
shan't trust you in the matter, Mr Butler," said Sir Charles, 
taking up a letter lying on the table. " I shall adopt that 
precaution which you yourself suggested. A friend of mine, 
coming through from Scotland, will be in Liverpool on 
"Wednesday night. Yes," he added, referring to the letter, 
" Wednesday night. I'll ask him to stop there a day, to 
take your ticket and to see you sail ; and with the ticket he 
shall give you twenty pounds." 

Mr Effingham was delighted ; he had succeeded better 
even than he had hoped, and he commenced pouring out his 
thanhs. But Sir Charles cut him very short, saying: 

'■ You will ask for Captain Bligh at the Adelphi Hotel j. 

19 



290 BUOTING THE GAUNTLET. 

and recollect, Mr Butler, this is the last transaction between 
us ; " and he left the room. 

" For the present, dear sir," said Mr Effingham, taking 
up his hat ; " the last transaction for the present ; but if 
our little New- York expedition turns up trumps, you and I 
will meet again on a different footing." 

On the Friday morning Mr Effingham sailed from Liver- 
pool for New York in the fast screw-steamer Pocahontas, 
his ticket having been taken and the twenty pounds paid to 
him ou board by Captain Bligh, who stood by leaning 
against a capstan while the vessel cleared out of dock. 



CHAPTEK XXV 



A CRISIS AT EEDMOOR. 



When Mrs Hammond left the dinner-table on the evening 
destined to add a new sorrow to G-eorgie Mitford's sorely- 
troubled lot, she really had gone, as she had announced her 
intention of going, to her husband's room. The old man 
was lying in his bed, propped up with pillows, his face 
turned to the large window, through which the rays of the 
moon were shining, and mingling in a cold and ghastly 
manner with the light in the room. The invalid had a 
fancy for seeing the dark clumps of trees on the rising 
grounds, and the cold moon shining over their heads. 
Gin'ord, his confidential servant, sat at the bed's head, and 
had been reading to his master. Mrs Hammond asked him 
several questions in a tone of interest which sounded almost 
genuine as to how Mr Hammond had been ; and then say- 
ing she meant to remain with the invalid for a while, she 
dismissed him, and took her seat by the window, in a posi- 
tion enabling her to see quite distinctly a portion of the 
broad carriage -drive to the right of the entrance, across 
which the rays of the moon flung their uninterrupted radi- 



A CRISIS AT EEDMOOE. 29l 

ance. Laura did not exert herself much for the amusement 
of the invalid. The few questions he asked her she an- 
swered listlessly, then sunk into silence. After a short time 
her step-daughter came softly into the room to bid her 
father good-night. 

" Tou are rather late, Alice ; where have you been ? " 
said Laura, without turning her head towards the child, 
still looking fixedly at the patch of ground in the moon- 
light. 

" With Lady Mitford, mamma," answered Alice. 

" Have the gentlemen left the dining-room ? " 

" Lord Dollamore came into the drawing-room, and I saw 
Sir Charles crossing the hall into the library ; but I don't 
know about the others," answered Alice. 

Mrs Hammond said no more ; and Alice, having received 
an affectionate embrace from her father, and the coldest 
conceivable touch of Mrs Hammond's lips on the edge of 
her cheek, went off to bed. The silence continued in the 
sick man's room, and Laura's gaze never turned from the 
window. At length a figure passed across the moonlit 
space, and was instantly lost in the darkness beyond. Then 
Mrs Hammond drew down the blind, and changed her seat 
to a chair close by the bedside. She took up the book 
which GifFord had laid down, and asked her husband if he 
would like her to read on. 

" If you please, my dear," said Mr Hammond, " if it 
won't tire you ; and you won't mind my falling asleep, 
which I may do, for I feel very drowsy." 

Laura was quite sure it would not tire her to read, and 
she would be delighted if her reading should have so sooth- 
ing an effect. 

" If I do fall asleep, you must not stay with me, Laura ; 
you must go downstairs again. Promise me you will ; and 
you need not call GifFord, — I don't require any one ; I am 
much better to-night." 

Very well ; Laura would promise not to stay in his room 
if he should fall asleep ; and as she really did think him 
very much better, she would not summon Gifford. 

Mrs Hammond possessed several useful and attractive 
accomplishments ; among others* that of reading aloud to 



202 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

perfection. She did not exhibit her skill particularly on 
this occasion — her voice was languid and monotonous ; and 
the author would have had ample reason to complain had 
he heard his sentences rendered so expressionless. She read 
on and on, in a sullen monotone ; and after a quarter of an 
hour had elapsed, she had the pleasure of seeing that her 
kind intention was fulfilled. Her voice had been very 
soothing, and her husband had fallen into a profound sleep. 
Then she passed through an open door into her dressing- 
room, and reappeared, wrapped in a dark warm cloak, the 
hood thrown over her head. If any one had taken the 
place she had so lately occupied at the window, that person 
would have seen, after the lapse of a few moments, a second 
figure flit across the moonlit space, and disappear into 
the darkness beyond. 

About half an hour later Banks tapped at the door of 
the smoking-room, and was gruffly bidden to '" come in " by 
Captain Bligh. 

" If you please, Captain," said Banks, upon whom the 
atmosphere of that particular apartment always produced a 
distressingly-choky and eye-smarting effect, — " if you please, 
Captain, I can't find Sir Charles. He ain't in the library, 
nor yet in the drormg-room, and he's wanted very par- 
ticular." 

" Perhaps he has gone up to see Mr Hammond," 
suggested Bligh. 

" ]So, Captain, he ain't ; I've bin and ast Gifford, and he 
says as his missis has been along o' the old gentleman since 
dinner-time, and she's there now, and nobody ain't with 
them." 

" That's odd," said Captain Bligh ; " but who wants him ? 
Perhaps I might do." 

" I beg your pardon, Captain," said the peremptory 
Banks, " but nobody won't do but Sir Charles hisself. It's 
a party as has been sent up from Pishbourne, where my 
lady comes from, and his orders is to see Sir Charles alone, 
and not to let out his message to nobody else." 

The good-natured Captain looked extremely grave. Only 
one occurrence could have rendered so much precaution 



A CRISIS AT EEDMOOR. 293 

necessary, and he conjectured at once that that occurrence 
had taken place. 

"I fear Mr Stanfield is dead," he said to his companions. 
" I must go and find Mitford. Just excuse me for a while, 
and make yourselves comfortable here, will you ? — Come 
with me, Banks, and take care your mistress gets no hint 
of this person's being here." 

" There ain't no fear of that, Captain," replied the man ; 
" my lady's in the droring-room, along o' Lord Dollamore ; 
and I knew that Sir Charles worn't there, so I didn't go to 
look for him." 

The Captain found the messenger in the library, where 
Banks had sent him to await Sir Charles's appearance. 
He was a respectable elderly man, and he answered Captain 
Bligh's inquiry at once. He had been sent by poor 
Greorgie's old friend, the curate, to convey to Sir Charles 
Mitford the melancholy intelligence of Mr Stanfield's 
death, which had taken place early that morning ; and 
particulars of which event were contained in a letter which 
he was charged to deliver to the Baronet. He had received 
special injunctions to communicate the event to Sir Charles 
alone, and leave it to be " broken" to Lady Mitford by her 
husband. The simple curate had little thought how diffi- 
cult Sir Charles would find it to assume even a temporary 
sympathy with the feelings of his wife. 

Captain Bligh ordered refreshments to be served to the 
bringer of evil tidings ; requested him not to communicate 
with any of the other servants ; and strictly enjoining 
Banks to secrecy, went out of the front door and into the 
shrubbery on the left of the house. Mitford was not 
unaccustomed to take fits of sullen moodiness at times, 
and the Captain thought that he might perhaps find him 
Avalking about and smoking, in all the enjoyment of his 
ill- humour. 

The intelligent Banks had asked Gilford if he thought it 
likely that Sir Charles Avas in his master's room, in the 
presence of several of the ladies and gentlemen of the 
household, assembled in a comfortable and spacious apart- 
ment which the insolence of a dominant class caused to be 



294 SUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

known as the servants'-hall. Among the number of those 
who heard the question and its answer was Mademoiselle 
Marcelline, Mrs Hammond's " own maid." She was a 
trim-looking French girl, who had not anything remark- 
able in her appearance except its neatness, or in her man- 
ner except its quietness. She was seated at a large table, 
on which a number of workboxes were placed, for the 
women-servants at E-edmoor greatly affected needlework, 
and had a good deal of time to devote to it ; and she was 
embroidering a collar with neatness, dexterity, and rapidity, 
eminently Trench. Mademoiselle Marcelline made no 
observation, and did not raise her eyes, or discontinue her 
work for a moment, during the discussion as to where Sir 
Charles could be, which had ensued upon Banks's inquiry. 
She had spoken only once indeed since his entrance. When 
Grifford had said Sir Charles Mitford could not be in Mr 
Hammond's room, because her mistress had been, and was 
there still, he had asked, " Isn't she there still, mam'selle ? " 
Mam'selle had answered, " Yes, Monsieur Griffore, madame 
is there still." 

Mademoiselle Marcelline was so very quiet a little per- 
son, and differed so much from French ladies'-maids in 
general, by the unobtrusiveness of her manners and her 
extreme taciturnity — to be sure she spoke very little 
English, but that circumstance is rarely found to limit the 
loquacity of her class — that her exit from the servants'- 
hall was scarcely noticed, when she presently looked at her 
little Greneva watch, made up her embroidery into a tidy 
parcel, and went away with her usual noiseless step. 
Mademoiselle Marcelline mounted the stairs with great 
deliberation, and smiling a little, until she reached the 
corridor into which the suite of apartments occupied by 
the Hammonds opened. The rooms were five in number, 
and each communicated with the other. They were two 
bed-rooms, two dressing-rooms, and a bath-room. The latter 
occupied the central space, and had no external door. 
Mademoiselle Marcelline entered the last room of the suite, 
corresponding with that in which Mr Hammond lay, — this 
was Laura's bed-room, — and gently locked the door. She 
passed through the adjoining apartment — her mistress's 



A CRISIS AT REDMOOE. 295 

dressing-room — and paused before a large wardrobe, with- 
out shelves, in which hung a number of dresses and cloaks. 
She opened the doors, but held them one in each hand, 
looked in for a moment, and then shut them, and smiled 
still more decidedly. Then she softly locked the door of 
this room which opened into the corridor, and passing 
through the bath-room secured that of Mr Hammond's 
dressing-room also ; after which, with more precaution 
against noise than ever, she glided into the old man's room. 
He was sleeping soundly still, and his face looked wasted 
and ashen in the abstraction of slumber. Mademoiselle 
Marcelline glanced at him, shrugged her shoulders, sat 
down on a couch at the foot of the bed, where she was 
effectually screened from view by the heavy carved bedpost 
and the voluminous folds of the purple curtain, and waited. 

Meantime, Captain Bligh had not succeeded in finding 
Sir Charles, though he had sought for him in the shrubbery 
and in the stable-yard. He could not make out whither he 
had gone, and returned to the house to take counsel with 
Banks. That functionary suggested that Sir Charles might 
have gone up to the keeper's house ; and though the Cap- 
tain could not imagine why Sir Charles should have gone 
thither at such an inconvenient time, as he had no other 
to offer, he accepted this suggestion, and said he would go 
thither and look for him. 

" Shall I go with you, Captain ? " asked Banks, who felt 
curious to discover what " Mitford was up to." 

Since Mr Effingham's visit, and the polite fiction of the 
yacht — endeared to Mr Banks by his own joke about the 
Fleet Prison, which he considered so good that society was 
injured by its suppression within his own bosom — the 
incredulous flunkey had experienced an increased share of 
the curiosity with which their masters' affairs invariably 
inspire servants. He was much pleased then that Captain 
Bligh answered, 

" Tes, yes, you can come Avith me." 

The keeper's cottage was not very far from the great 
house, from which, however, it was entirely hidden by a 
thick fir-plantation which covered a long and wide space of 
undulating land, and through which several narrow paths 



296 BOOTING THE GAUNTLET. 

led to the open ground beyond. The Captain and his 
attendant struck into one of those paths, which led directly 
in the direction of the keeper's house. 

"We can't miss Sir Charles, I think, if he really has 
gone up to Hutton's," said the Captain. 

" No, sir, I think not, unless he has taken a very round- 
about way." answered Banks. 

They walked quickly on for some distance, the Captain's 
impatience momentarily increasing, and also his doubts 
that Mitford had gone in this direction at all. At length 
they reached a point at which the path, cutting the planta- 
tion from east to west, was intersected by one running 
from north to south. Here they paused, and the Captain 
said testily, 

" By Jove, Banks, I hardly know what to do. The mes- 
senger from Fishbourne's shut up in the library all this time, 
and all the servants in a fuss, and Sir Charles not forth- 
coming ! I wish I had broken the news of her father's 
death to Lady Mitford before I came out ; it would have 
been by far the best plan. She's sure to hear it by acci- 
dent now." 

The Captain spoke to himself rather than to the servant, 
and in a particularly emphatic voice — a testimony to his 
vexation. Then he strode onwards with increased speed, 
little knowing that he had spoken within the startled hear- 
ing of the man whom he was seeking, and who was so near 
him, as he stood where the paths met, that he could have 
touched him by stretching out his arm, — touched him and 
his cowering frightened companion. 

They kept a breathless silence until the Captain and 
Banks were cpiite out of hearing. Then Sir Charles said : 

" What is to be done ? Did you hear what Bligh said, 
Laura ? Some one has been sent from Fishbourne to tell 
me that Mr Stanfield is dead, and they are searching for 
me everywhere. What a cursed accident ! There is not a 
chance of concealing your absence. My darling, my life, 
what is to be done ? " 

She was very pale and trembling, and the words came 
hard and hoarse, as she replied, 

" I know not. If we must brave it out we must : but 



A CRISIS AT REDHOOE 297 

there is a chance yet. Do you stay here, and meet Bligh 
as he comes back ; you can be strolling along the cross path. 
Have you a cigar ? No ; you are in dinner-dress, of course. 
Stay ; yon have an overcoat on ; search the pockets. Yes, 
yes ; what luck ! Here's a cigar-case, and your light-box 
hangs to your chain, — I'll never call it vulgar again, — light 
a cigar at once, and contrive to show the light when you 
hear them. I will go to the house. You left the side win- 
dow open, did you not ? " 

" Yes, yes." His agitation was increasing ; hers was 
subsiding. 

" If I can get into the house unseen, all is right. I can 
pass through my own rooms into Hammond's. Send there 
for me if all is safe ; the servants think I am there." 

She turned away to leave him ; but he caught her in his 
arms, and said in a tone of agony, 

" Laura ! Laura ! if I have exposed you to danger — if — " 

"Hush! " she said, disengaging herself; "you have not 
exposed me to danger any more than I have exposed my- 
self ; but don't talk of this as a hopeless scrape until we 
know that there is no way out of it." She was out of sight 
in au instant. 

Mademoiselle Marcelline sat at the foot of Mr Ham- 
mond's bed without the least impatience. She did not 
fidget, she did not look at the clock, she did not doze. The 
time passed apparently to her perfect satisfaction. The 
invalid slept on very peacefully, and the whole scene wore 
an eminently comfortable aspect. At length her acute ears 
discerned a light footfall at the end of the corridor, and then 
she heard the handle of Mrs Hammond's dressing-room 
door gently turned — in vain. Then the footstep came on, 
and another door-handle was turned, equally in vain. 

Mademoiselle Marcelline smiled. " It would have been 
so convenient for madame to have hung her cloak up and 
smoothed her hair before monsieur should see her, after 
madame's promenade in the clear of the, moon," thought 
Mademoiselle Marcelline. " "What a pity that those tire- 
some doors should unhappily be locked ! What a sorrow- 
ful accident ! " 

The door opened, and Laura looked cautiously into the 



298 KUNMING THE GAUNTLET. 

room. All was as she had left it ; the sleeping face of her 
husband was turned towards her. The pathetic unconscious- 
ness of sleep was upon it ; she did not heed the pathos, but 
the unconsciousness was convenient. The minutest change 
that would have intimated that any one had entered the 
room would not have escaped her notice, but there was no 
such thing. She came in, and softly closed the heavy per- 
fectly-hung door ; she made a few steps forward, uttered a 
deep sigh of relief, and said in an involuntary whisper, 
" What a risk, and what an escape ! " 

Her heavy cloak hung upon her ; she pushed back the 
hood, and her chestnut hair, in wild disorder, shone with 
red gleams in the fire-light. She lifted her white hands 
and snatched impatiently at the tasseled cord which held 
the garment at the throat ; and Mademoiselle Marcelline 
emerged from the shadow of the bed-curtains, and with 
perfect propriety and an air of entire respect requested that 
madame would permit her to remove the cloak which was so 
heavy, and also madame's boots, which must be damp, for 
the promenade of evening had inconveniences. 

Laura started violently, and then stood looking at the 
demure figure before her with a kind of incredulous terror. 
Mademoiselle Marcelline composedly untied the refractory 
cords and removed the mantle, which she immediately re- 
placed in the wardrobe. Would Madame have the goodness 
to consider what she had said about the boots, and to go into 
her dressing-room ? Madame followed her like one in a 
dream. She placed a chair before the dressing-table, and 
Laura mechanically sat down ; she took off her boots and 
substituted slippers ; she restored the symmetry of the 
crushed dress ; she threw a dressing-gown over the beauti- 
ful shoulders, folded it respectfully over the bosom heaving 
with terror and anger, and began to brush her mistress's 
hair with a wholly unperturbed demeanour. Laura looked 
at the demure composed face which appeared over her 
shoulder in the glass, and at length she said : 

" How came you in that room ? " 

" Ah, madame, what a happy chance ! One came to the 
salon of the servants, and demanded of Monsieur Griffore if 
Sir Charles might be in the chamber of monsieur. Then 



A CRISIS AT EEDMOOR. 299 

Monsieur Griffore say that no ; that madame was there, and 
is there. And Monsieur Giffore asked me if he have 
reason ; and I say, ' Certainly, madame is still in the cham- 
ber of monsieur.' " 

"Well," said Laura, for Mademoiselle Marcelline had 
paused, " what has that to do with your being in that 
room ? " 

" It has much, if madame will take the trouble to listen. 
I know that servants are curious, — ah, how curious servants 
are, my God ! — and I thought one of them might have 
curiosity enough to see for herself madame, so affectionate, 
passing the long, long evening with poor monsieur, who is 
not gay, — no, he is not gay, they say that in the salon of 
the servants. So, as it is not agreeable to be listened and 
spied, and as servants are so curious, I locked the doors of 
the rooms consecrated to the privacy of madame, and re- 
joiced to know that madame might read excellent books of 
exalted piety to monsieur, or refresh her spirits, so tired by 
her solicitude, with a promenade in the clear of the moon 
— madame is so poetic ! — as she chose, without being teased 
by observation. I respect also that good Monsieur Griffore, 
and I would not have him disprove. ' Madame is still 
there, mam' sell ? " he asks ; and I say, ' Tes ; madame is 
still there.' " 

All the time she was speaking, Mademoiselle Marcelline 
quietly pursued her task. The long silken tresses lay now 
in a well-brushed shining heap over her left arm, and she 
looked at them with complacent admiration. 

" Heaven ! but madame has beautiful hair ! " she went on, 
while Laura, pale and motionless, sat taking into her heart 
the full meaning of this terrible complication of her position. 
" It is, however, fortunate that she does not adopt the 
English style, for promenades at the clear of the moon are 
enemy to curls — to those long curls which the young ladies, 
lastly gone away, and who were so fond of madame, wore. 
They avoided the damp of the forest in the evening, the 
young ladies ; they were careful of their curls. But 
madame has not need to be careful of anything — nothing 
and nobody can hurt madame, who is so beloved by mon- 
sieur. Ah, what a destiny ! and monsieur so rich ! " 



300 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

She had by this time braided the shining hair, and was 
dexterously folding the plaits round and round the small 
head, after a fashion which Laura had lately adopted. Still 
her mistress sat silent, with moody downcast eyes. As she 
interrupted her speech for a moment to take a fresh hand- 
ful of hair-pins from the dressing-table, Banks knocked at 
the door of the adjoining room. Mademoiselle Marcelline 
did not raise her voice to bid him enter ; always considerate, 
she remembered that an indiscreet sound might trouble the 
repose of the invalid, so she stepped gently to the door and 
opened it. 

" Is Mrs Hammond here, mam'sell ? " asked Banks. 

" Oh, but yes, Monsieur Banks, madame is always here." 

" Not exactly," thought Banks, puzzled by her idiom ; but 
he merely said, " Bad news has reached the family. My 
lady's father is dead, which he was a good old gentleman 
indeed ; and she ain't seen him neither, not for some time; 
and my lady she's been a faintin' away in the libery like 
anythin' ; and Sir Charles, he's been a holdin' of her hup, 
leastways him aud Lord Dollamore, and there's the deuce 
to pay down there." 

Mademoiselle listened with polite attention to Mr Banks's 
statement of the condition of affairs ; but she was not 
warmly interested, 

" Monsieur Banks will pardon me," she said ; " but at 
present I coif madame ; I think he demanded madame ? " 

" Tes, I did, marm'sell," said Banks, abashed and con- 
victed by this quiet little person of undue loquacity ; "only 
I thought you'd like to hear. Mostly servants does ; but," 
here Mr Banks floundered again, " you ain't much like the 
rest of us, miss — mam'sell, I mean." 

Mademoiselle Marcelline acknowledged the compliment 
with a very frigid smile, and again inquired what she might 
have the pleasure of telling madame, on the part of Mon- 
sieur Banks. 

" Sir Charles begs Mrs Hammond will come clown to the 
libery if quite convenient to her, as he wishes to speak to 
her about some necessary arrangements." 

Mr Banks delivered his message with elaboration, and 
waited the reply with dignity. Mademoiselle Marcelline 



A CRISIS AT REDMOOU. 301 

repeated the communication to her mistress, word for word, 
and did not suffer the slightest trace of expression to ap- 
pear in her face. 

'• Yes, I will go down immediately," said Laura, much 
relieved at the prospect of escaping from the presence of 
her maid, and having time to consider her position. 

Mr Banks went away to deliver Mrs Hammond's mes- 
sage, and mademoiselle, in perfect silence, removed the 
dressing-gown from her mistress's shoulders ; and Laura, 
her dress in complete order, and her nerves to all appearance 
as well arranged, rose from her chair. 

•' Give me a lace shaAvl," she said, in her customary im- 
perious manner ; " if Lady Mitford has lost her father, she 
will not be gratified by my making my appearance in full- 
dress, and I have no time to change it." 

" Madame is so considerate," remarked Mademoiselle 
Marcelline, as she folded a web of fine black lace round Mrs 
Hammond's form ; " and Lady Mitford owes her so much. 
Poor lady, she is sensitive ; she has not the courage of 
madame. Madame must form her." 

" Go for Grifford to sit with Mr Hammond," said Laura. 
" Tou can wait for me in my room as usual ; " and she 
walked out of the dressing-room, having previously ordered 
her maid to unlock the door, without any outward sign of 
disturbance. Slowly she went down the great staircase, 
and as she went she asked herself, " Shall I tell Charles ? 
Could any worse complication arise out of my concealing 
this dreadful thing from him ? " At length she made up 
her mind, just as she reached the door of the library. " JSTo," 
she said, " I will not tell him. He has no nerve, and would 
blunder, and the less one tells any man the better." 

Poor Greorgie, now indeed lonely and desolate, had been 
taken to her room, and induced to lie down on her bed, by 
the housekeeper and her maid, who proposed to watch by 
their unhappy mistress all night. She and Sir Charles were 
to proceed to Fishbourne on the following day. She had 
earnestly entreated her husband to take her with him, and 
he had consented. She was quite worn-out and stupefied 
with grief, and had hardly noticed Mrs Hammond's pre- 



302 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

sence in the library at all. It was agreed that Lord Dolla- 
more should leave Bedmoor on the following day, a little 
later than Sir Charles and Lady Mitford, and that the 
Hammonds should go to Torquay as soon as the physicians 
would permit their patient to make so great an effort. 

" It is impossible to- say how soon I shall get back, or 
how long I may be detained," said Sir. Charles ; " and it's a 
confounded nuisance having to go." 

Lord Dollamore looked at him with tranquil curiosity, 
and tapped first his teeth and then his ear with his insepar- 
able cane. 

" I hope they will make you comfortable here. Bligh 
will see to everything, I know. Perhaps they won't let 
Hammond move at all — very likely, for there's an east wind 
— and you'll be here when we return." 

Very gravely Mrs Hammond answered him : " That will 
be impossible, Sir Charles. Lady Mitford could not 
possibly be expected to have any one in her house under 
such circumstances. Mr Hammond must be brought to 
Torquay." 

Sir Charles was puzzled ; he could not quite understand 
her tone ; he did not think it was assumed entirely, owing 
to the presence of Lord Dollamore, for that had sel- 
dom produced any effect on Laura. No, she was completely 
in earnest. She gave her hand to each gentleman in turn, 
but the clasp she bestowed on each was equally warm ; and 
when Sir Charles, as she passed out of the door, shot one pas- 
sionate glance at her, unseen by Dollamore, she completely 
ignored it, and walked gracefully away. 

" By Jove ! " said Lord Dollamore, when he had gotten 
rid of Mitford and was safe in his own room, " it was a 
lucky thing Buttons made his appearance just when he did. 
I should have hopelessly committed myself in another 
minute ; and then, on the top of that fine piece of senti- 
ment, we should have had the scene of this evening's news. 
No matter how she had taken it, I should have been in an 
awful scrape. If she had taken it well, I should have had 
to do a frightful amount of sympathy and condolence — the 
regular ' water-cart business ' in fact ; and if she had taken 
it ill, egad, she's just the woman to blurt it all out in a fit 



A CRISIS AT EEDMOOE. 303 

of conscience, and to believe that her father's death is a 
judgment upon her for not showing me up to Mitford ! As 
it is, the matter remains in a highly- satisfactory condition ; 
I am not committed to anything : I might have been plead- 
ing my own cause, or a friend's, or some wholly imaginary 
personage's ; and I cau either resume the argument pre- 
cisely where I dropped it, if I think proper, or I can cut the 
whole affair. Bless you, my Buttons ! " 

As Gfeorgie was driving over to the railway-station on 
the following day, — her maid and she occupying the inside 
of the carriage, and Sir Charles, availing himself of his well- 
known objection to allow any one but himself to drive when 
he was present, to avoid a tete-a-tete with his wife, on the 
box, — she raised her heavy veil for a while, and drawing a 
letter from her pocket, read and re-read it through her 
blinding tears. It was from Colonel Alsager. At length 
Greorgie put it away, and lay back in the carriage, with 
closed eyes, thinking of the writer. 

" He has suffered a great deal also," she thought; "and 
he has more to suffer. How sorely he must repent his 
neglect of his father ! as sorely as I repent my neglect of 
mine." Here the tears, which had already burned her eye- 
lids into a state of excruciating soreness, burst forth again. 
" What must he have felt when he read his father's letter ! 
■ — the letter written to be read after the writer's death, — 
the letter he will show to me, he says, though to no one 
else in the world, except, I suppose, the young lady whom 
Sir Peregrine entreated him in it to marry. I wonder if 
he will, — I wonder if she is nice, and good, and likely to 
make him happy ! It is strange that a similar calamity 
should have befallen him and me. He can feel for my grief 
now — I have always felt for his ! " 



304 



CHAPTER XXVI. 



MR WUFP S "NEW STAR. 



" Miss Constance Greenwood, the new actress ! " "Go 
and see Constance Greenwood on the 18th ! " " Constance 
Greenwood as Lady Malkinshaw ! " Such were the pla- 
cards in enormous letters which glared upon Laurence 
Alsager from every dead wall and hoarding on his passage 
from the railway-station to his old rooms in Jermyn Street. 
Laurence could not forbear smiling as he glanced at them — 
could not forbear a laugh as, at the Club over his dinner, he 
read the advertisements of the forthcoming appearance of 
Miss Greenwood at the Theatre Royal, Hatton Garden, for 
which national establishment she had been secured by the 
impresario, MrWuff, at an expense hitherto unparalleled — 
at least so said the advertisements. 

Yes ; Mr Wuff had done it at last ! He had cut himself 
adrift from the moorings of mediocrity, as his nautical 
dramatist expressed it, and it was now sink or swim with 
him. He was "going in a perisher," he said himself; and 
having set his fortune on a die, he was just waiting to see 
whether it turned up six or ace. 

When Mr Wuff came into a sum of money on the death 
of a distant relative, and, forsaking the necessary but hardly 
popular calling of a sheriffs-officer, took the Theatre Royal, 
Hatton Garden, and opened it with a revival . of the legiti- 
mate drama in general and of Shakespearian plays in par- 
ticular, he made a very great hit. It was so long since any 
one had attempted to represent Shakespeare, that an 
entirely new generation had sprung up, which, egged on by 
its elders, went religiously to the first performance of all 
the celebrated plays, and tried very hard indeed to think 
they both understood and liked them. The newspaper press 
too was very noble on the subject. Mr WufF, so said the 
critics, was the great dramatic resuscitator of the age. 



ME WUFF'S " NEW STAB." oOG 

What ! Peoplo had said that the taste for the legitimate 
was exploded ! The answer to that was in the crowds that 
thronged to T. R., Hatton Garden. And then the critics 
went on to say that the scenery by Mr Slap p, with wonder- 
ful moonlight eil'ects such as had ne\Mflpfeviously been 
seen, was thoroughly appreciated ; and that the mechanical 
arrangement for the appearance of Banquo's ghost amongst 
the unconscious Thanes was a marvel of theatrical deception. 
'Was it Shakespeare or Slapp who drew ? B uncle, a heavy, 
ignorant, ill-educated man, who had played fourth-rate parts 
with the Dii major es in those "palmy days" of which we 
read, and who now, faute de mieux, found himself pitch- 
forked into the leading characters, thought it was Shake- 
speare — and Buncle ! The knowing ones thought it was 
the novelty of the reproduction and the excellence of Slapp's 
scenery which caused the success ; and the knowing ones 
were right. Shakespeare, as interpreted by Buncle, Mrs 
Buncle, and Stampede — whom Buncle always took about 
with him to play his seconds — drew for a certain length of 
time. Then the audience thinned gradually, and "Wuff 
found it necessary to supplement King Lear with the 
Harem Beauties — a ballet supported by the best band of 
coryphees in Europe ; and that was a really good stroke of 
policy While Buncle was lying down and dying as Lear, 
the club-men came trooping into the house ; and Buncle's 
apostrophes to his dead daughter Cordelia were nearly in- 
audible in the creaking of boots and the settling into seats. 
The pit cried " Hush ! " and " Shame ! " but the swells did 
not care about the pit, and the curtain fell on Buncle 
thirsting for aristocratic blood. The ballet at first attracted 
largely. As the time for its commencement approached, 
the military clubs were drained of their members, who 
went away in a procession of hansoms from Pall Mall to 
Hatton Garden ; and you could have counted more peers 
within Wuff's walls at one time than were to be found, 
save on special occasions, at St Stephen's. 

But the ballet, after a time, ceased to draw ; and Mr 
Wuff could not supplement it by another, for the coryphees 
had all returned to their allegiance to the manager of the 
Opera-house, whose season had just commenced. Mr "Wuff 

20 



306 



EUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



was in despair ; he dared not shut the house, for he had to 
make up his rent, which was required with inexorable 
punctuality by the committee of gentlemen who owned the 
theatre. He musi^try something ; but what was it to be ? 
Wuff and his treggwer, Mr Bond, — always known as Tom- 
my Bond, an apple-faced, white-headed old gentleman, who 
had dropped into the theatrical world no one ever knew 
whence, and who had held a place of trust with all the 
great managers of the T. R., Hatton Garden, for thirty 
years, — were closeted together. 

" What's it to be, Tommy ? " repeated Mr Wuff for the 
twentieth time. " They've had it all round, hot and strong ; 
and what's the caper for 'em now, I don't know." 

" What do you think of reviving Julius Gcesar ? The 
classic costume has not been seen on these boards for 
years." 

" What ! Billy's Julius Cmsar ? No, thank you ! I've 
had enough of Bill to last me some time — and that brute 
Buncle drawing fifteen pounds a week, and bellowing his 
lungs out to thirty people in the pit ! No, no ! Is there 
a good lion-and-camel lot about ? " 

Mr Bond shuddered ; he was frequently prompted to 
shudder in his conversation with Mr Wuff. He was a 
great believer in the elevating tendencies of the drama ; 
and when he thought of lions and camels on the same 
boards which he had seen trodden at different times by 
those great actors and rivals, Grumble and Green, he could 
not refrain from shuddering. But his business instincts 
made him turn to a file of the Era on the table, and he 
said, after consulting it : 

"There's Roker's troupe at North Shields." 

" How long since they've been in town ? " 

" Oh, two years ; and then they were only at the Wells— 
you can scarcely call that town ; and it didn't interfere a 
bit with our people, you know." 

" Roker's are performing lions, ain't they ? " 

" Tes ; they'll let him do anything to them, when they're 
in a proper state." 

" AH right ! Write to him about terms at once ; and 
send to Darn and tell him we want a piece to bring out 



me wuff's "new stag." 307 

this lot at once. Must be Eastern, because of the camel — 
long procession, slaves, caskets, and all that kind of thing, 
aud a fight with the lion for Eoker. That's all Eoker's to 
do, mind; he can't act a bit." "* 

Mr Eoker was driving such an excellent trade with the 
pitmen of the North, that he refused to come to London 
except on terms which Mr Wuff would not give ; and so 
that enterprising manager was again in a strait. Mr 
Trapman had been called into council, had ransacked his 
books and his brain in search for novelty, but all to no 
purpose ; and things were looking very serious for Mr 
Wuff, when one morning Trapman rushed from his office 
and arrived breathless in the manager's sanctum. 

" What is it ? " asked Wuff, who was sitting vacantly 
looking at Bond, poring over files of old play-bills." 

" We've got it at last, I think ! " said Trapman, pointing 
to an open letter in his hand. " You've heard of Constance 
Greenwood ? " 

" Yes, yes ! " struck in Mr Bond eagerly. " Milinan was 
here last week, just arrived from New York, — and he sayS 
that for the leading-lady business — modern time, I mean — 
he'd never seen anything like her." 

" Yankee, ain't she ? " asked Wuff coldly. 

" Not a bit of it," replied Trapman. " She's English 
bred and born ; only been out there three months ; never 
played anywhere before, and made a most tre-mendous hit. 
I saw the New York papers about her first night. They'd 
got up a report that she was the daughter of an English 
nobleman, and had run away because her father was cruel 
to her ; and this crammed the house. The girl's acting 
did the rest. Every one says she's very clever, and she 
was making no end of dollars a-night." 

" Well ? " said Wuff, who was working up into excite- 
ment. 

" Oh, I thought you did not care about it," said Trap- 
man. " I've a letter from her here in my hand, saying she's 
taken a sudden desire to England, and wants me to get her 
an engagement in a first-class theatre. I've got newspapers 
by the same mail, describing her farewell benefit, and 
speculating, in the way those chaps do over there, about 



308 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

what can have made her want to go to England so sud- 
denly. But there's no doubt she's a clipper, and I came at 
once to offer her to you." 

' I'll have her ! " shouted Wuff, jumping up. " First-class 
theatre she wants, eh ? This is the shop. Let's have a 
look at her letter ? " 

" Can't do that, — it's a private letter," said Trapman ; 
" but I'll tell you her terms : ten pound a-night settled, and 
a share after a hundred." 

" That'll do. JNow, Tommy Bond, just sit down and 
write a stunnin' advertisement, and put that story about 
her being a nobleman's daughter into shape,— only make 
her run away because she was in love, and wanted to earn 
money for the support of her lover, who was blind. — Eh, 
Trapman, that ought to wake 'em up ? — And send the story 
to little Shiffbn, who does that column of lies, and ask him 
to stick it in next week. — What's her line, Trapman ? " 

" Genteel comedy and interesting business of the highest 
class, — lady of the present day, you know." 

"All right ; then I shan't want Buncle." 

" Not a bit ; get rid of him at once. But I'll tell you 
what ; Pontifex has quarrelled with the Parthenium people 
— he was with me yesterday — and I'd pick him up to sup- 
port her." 

Mr Wuff' agreed to this, and told Mr Trapman to take 
the necessary steps ; and that gentleman then took his de- 
parture. 

" Wasn't going to let Wuff look at her letter," said he, 
as he walked away ; " wouldn't do at all. What a doosed 
clever gal ! What does she say ? " and he pulled the letter 
from his pocket : ' ; ' Not a word to any one until after. my 
appearance. After that I shan't care.' All right, my dear ; 
you may depend upon me." 

Mr Wuff went to work with a will, and spared no expense 
in his bills and advertisements. The nobleman's daughter's 
story was duly filtered through the newspapers, and popular 
curiosity was excited. Miss Constance Greenwood arrived 
from America by the next mail, bringing with her an 
American play, founded on a French subject, full of interest, 
and what we should in the present day call sensation, but 



MR WUPF'S "NEW STAlt." 309 

wretchedly written. This play was given to the accom- 
plished Spoftbrth ; and under his manipulation it became a 
very capital acting drama, with a splendid character for 
Miss Greenwood, and Aery good chances for Pontifex. 
AVuff, Bond, Spoftbrth, and Oldboy, the critic of the States- 
man, had a little dinner at Wuff's house before the evening 
dress-rehearsal, which Miss Greenwood had requested be- 
fore the production of the piece ; and they were all delighted 
with what they" saw. Oldboy was especially pleased. "I 
thought," said he, " that lady -like women left the stage with 
Miss Fortescue ; but this girl restores my hopes." And 
Wuff winked at Spoftbrth, and they both knew that meant 
a column and a half the morning after the performance. 

Sir Laurence Alsager drove straight from the railway- 
station to the Maecenas Club, where his servant was waiting 
for him with his dressing-things. As he pushed through 
the streets, the placards on the w r alls announcing the the- 
atrical novelty for the evening recalled to his mind the night 
of his return from the East. Then he drove to the Club, 
then he had returned to be present at the first represent- 
ation of a theatrical novelty ; but ah, how different was his 
state of mind then from what it was now ! Then the iron 
had passed over the slight scratch which he at that time 
imagined was a wound, and had completely cicatrized it ; 
now a real wound was gaping and bare. Kismet ! kismet ! 
the old story. That night he saw Georgie Mitford for the 
first time ; and ever since then what had he not suffered on 
her account ! Ah, what had she herself not suffered, poor 
child ! His absence from London and his manner of life 
down at Knockholt had precluded him from hearing any 
recent news of her • and he wondered whether the lapse of 
time had had any effect on Sir Charles Mitford's mad infatu- 
ation, or whether it still continued. More than anything 
else, Laurence wanted to know whether Lady Mitford's 
domestic misery was known to the world at large, or confined 
to the few acquaintances who had such splendid opportuni- 
ties of inspecting in the quiet of Eedmoor. He knew that 
her first appearance in society had excited a great deal of 
notice, a great deal of admiration, and, consequently, a great 



310 EUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

deal of envy ; and he was too much a man of the world not 
to feel certain that anything to her disadvantage would be 
sought out with the greatest perseverance, and spread abroad 
with the greatest alacrity. And it was to her disadvantage 
in the eyes of society, that her home was unhappy ; there 
were people in numbers who would declare that the result 
was her fault ; that she was prim, puritanical, bad-tempered ; 
that her jealousy was perfectly ridiculous ; that her missy 
ways and affectation rendered it impossible for any man to 
live with her. There were numbers of people who would 
take an opposite view of the question, and who would pity 
her — not indeed with that pity which is akin to love, but 
from a feeling springing from a very different source, — a pity 
which consists in loudly denouncing the cause for compas- 
sion, and wondering how the person to be compassionated 
can endure what has to be gone through. There would be 
people who could not understand how anything otherwise 
could have been expected : a young person from the bour- 
geoisie introduced into the nous-autres class must expect that 
the silly fancy which had captivated her husband would not 
last, and must be prepared to take the consequences of her 
vaulting ambition. The Clanronald and Tappington set 
would infallibly regard it from this last-mentioned point of 
view, accordingly. 

How Laurence Alsager's blood boiled within him as all 
these thoughts passed through his mind! During the 
quietude of his life at Knockholt, he had had sufficient op- 
portunities so thoroughly to catechise himself, so perfectly 
to dissect the feelings of his breast, as to leave no doubt in 
his own mind that he loved Lady Mitford deeply and pas- 
sionately. The notion of the guardian angel, the protecting 
genius, which he had so encouraged at first, had now en- 
tirely faded out, and he had not scrupled to show to himself 
the actual state of his feelings towards her. Not that they 
would ever be known ; he had made up his mind to keep 
them rigidly locked in his own bosom. But still it was 
worse than horrible to think that the woman in whose serv- 
ice he would willingly have perilled his life, was in all 
probability dragging on a miserable existence, exposed to 
the perverse misunderstandings or degrading pity of the 



MB wuit's "new star." 311 

world ! On these latter points lie should soon be assured. 
They discussed everybody at the Maecenas ; and if there 
had been anything sufficiently noticeable in the Mitford 
menage to call for comment, it was sure to receive the freest 
and most outspoken discussion in the tabak-parliament of 
the Club. 

Meanwhile, the mere notion of being back in London 
conduced in no small degree to raise Laurence's spirits. 
His time at Knockholt had been, he felt, far from unprofit- 
ably spent ; he had had opportunities not merely of examin- 
ing his own heart, but of making himself acquainted with 
the hopes and fears, the wishes and prospects, of some of 
those with whose lives he was to a certain extent concerned. 
He had had opportunities of carrying out certain pet pro- 
jects of the good old man, whose last days he had been 
permitted to console ; and he had been enabled to take up 
that position in his county which was required of him, not 
merely by the hollow ordinances of " gentility," but by the 
great binding rivets of society He hoped in all honesty 
and humility to be able " to do his duty in that state of life 
unto which God had called him ; " but he felt all the de- 
light of a schoolboy out of bounds in laying-by the county 
magnate, the landed proprietor, the many-acred wealthy 
baronet, for a time, and making a very small unit in the 
grand population of London. The crowded streets, the 
gas-lamps, the dull rumble of the passing vehicles, — all 
were delightful to him ; and as he drew up at the club-door 
he felt happier than he had done for many a long day. 

He dressed himself and went down into the coffee-room, 
which he found thronged. Mr Wuff's advertisements and 
bills had been so far fruitful, that two-thirds of the diners 
at the Maecenas seemed from their talk to be going to the 
Hatton- Garden Theatre. Laurence was welcomed with 
great cordiality by all who knew him, and had numerous 
offers of "joining tables;" but he expected George Ber- 
tram, and when he found that that pillar of the state did not 
arrive, he preferred dining by himself. The solitary life he 
had been leading, the event which had led to that life, the 
reflections which had engrossed him since he had led it, — 
all concurred to prevent him from suddenly plunging into 



312 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

the light gossip of a club-room. After dinner, finding that 
the piece in which Miss Constance Greenwood was to ap- 
pear did not commence until half-past eight, he went into 
the smoking-room, where most of the diners had assembled, 
and in addition to them, Lord Dollamore. He looked up 
and saw Alsager's entrance ; then stretched out his hand, 
and pointed to a vacant seat on the couch beside him. 

" My dear Alsager, delighted to see you, — honestly and 
truly delighted ! How are you ? What a hermit you have 
become ! though of course I understand, — family-business 
and all that ; and what has brought you up at last— not 
this new play ? " 

" Well, I can scarcely say that ; but I wanted a some- 
thing to come up for — a something, I mean, beyond law- 
business — and perhaps this wondrous advertisement of 
Wuff's turned the scale." 

" They tell me the gal's deuced good. Spofforth, who 
saw her last night, was here this morning, and says she's 
really wonderful. This is the second time you've done this 
sort of thing, — coming back on the first night of a great 
theatrical event. It's not half a bad idea, because you see 
a lot of people you know, and get rid of ' how-d'ye-do's ' in 
one large parcel." 

" There are some who were present on the last occasion 
whom I shall not see to-night, I suppose," said Laurence. 
" I was thinking," he added, as he saw Dollamore whisper- 
ing to his stick, " of George Bertram." 

" No ! " said Dollamore, " the Blab has been missing for 
the last fortnight. It's rumoured that he has gone as a 
mute into the service of the Pasha of Egypt. I thought 
you were alluding to our friends in Devonshire : a nice 
business that." 

" Indeed ! I, as you know, have been absent from town 
for months, and have heard nothing." 

" Well, you won't listen to me, I suppose, because you'll 
imagine I am prejudiced, recollecting all I said to you on 
the subject in this very room after Spofforth's play.' But 
you won't deny that, so far as you had opportunities of 
judging while we were down at Redmoor, I was right ? " 



MB wcff's "new star." 313 

" Right so far as your estimation of the man went, cer- 
tainly—" 

" Oh, as for the lady, there is no one can entertain a 
higher opinion of Lady Mitford than myself. The degrada- 
tion that that brute is bringing upon her — " 

''Degradation ! Do you mean to say that Mitford's in- 
fidelities are known — about — generally ? " 

'• My dear Alsager, you think I colour and exaggerate. 
Let us pump that well of candour, Cis Hetherington. If 
there is an honest opinion about, it will be procurable from 
that son of Anak. — Well, Cis, going to the play ? " 

" Course I am," responded that scion of the aristocracy, 
lazily lifting his head from the ottoman ; " everybody's 
going, seems to me. What's the woman like ? Yankee, 
ain't she ? Don't like Yankees, — all speak through their 
noses, and say ' I guess ; ' at, least, all that I've ever seen 
do, and that's only on the stage." 

" She's not Yankee ; she's an Englishwoman, they tell 
me ; though of course that story of the nobleman's daughter 
is all bosh. However, Wuff has worked the oracle splen- 
didly. Everybody's going. Here's Alsager come up to 
town on purpose." 

" Is that Alsager sitting next to you ? " asked Cis 
Hetherington, raising himself on his elbow and looking full 
at Laurence. " I thought it looked like him, and I won- 
dered he didn't speak to me. But I suppose he's grown 
proud sinc.e he's become a Bart." 

" You old idiot ! I shook hands with you in the hall as I 
came in," said Laurence, laughing. " What's the news, Cis? 
how are all your people ? " 

" Eirst-rate, old boy ! Westonhanger's gone abroad — to 
America, I mean ; Sioux Indians, and that sort of thing. 
Wanted you awfully to go with him, but thought you were 
doing monseigneur on your terre. Asked about you no end, 
give you my word ! And the Duke's really tremendous ! 
'pon my soul, some fellow ought to put him in a book ! 
Ever since the row about the repeal of the Corn Laws has 
been coming to a head, he's been like a lunatic. He thinks 
it's all up with everything, and is sure we shall have a re- 



814 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

volution, and that he'll have his head cut off by the mob 
and stuck on a pike, and all that kind of thing." 

" And Algy Eorrester ? " asked Dollamore. 

"Algy Forrester was here to-day," said Hetherington ; 
" came to me about a devilish unpleasant thing. That fellow 
Mitford, whom you both know " (" Now, then, listen !" said 
Dollamore), — " that fellow Mitford has asked him — Algy, I 
mean — to put him up here. And Algy came to ask if I'd 
second him, and I told him I'd see Mitford d — d first. And 
so I would. I ain't a strait-laced party, and don't go in for 
being particularly virtuous myself; but I'm a bachelor, and 
am on my own hook. But the way that fellow Mitford 
treats that nice wife of his is neither more nor less than 
blackguardly, I think ; and so I wouldn't mind telling him, 
if I'd the chance." 

' Hallo, Cis ! " said Markham Bowers, who was sitting 
near ; " shut your stupid old mouth. You'll get into a 
mess if you give tongue like that, — get cut off in the flower 
of your youth ; and then what weeping and wailing there'll 
be among the ten tribes, and among those unfortunate 
Christians who have been speculating on your autograph. 
Not that you're wrong in what you say about Mitford ; for 
if ever a cad walked this earth, that's the man." 

" Ah ! and isn't she a nice woman ? " said Hetherington. 
" When she first showed in town last season, she took every- 
body's fancy ; even Eunnymede admired her, and the 
Duchess asked to be introduced, and they were quite thick. 
"Wonderful ! wasn't it ? And to think of that snob Mit- 
ford treating her as he does, completely neglecting her, 
while he's — Well, I don't know ; I suppose it's all right ; 
but there ain't many things that would please me better 
than dropping on to that party — heavy." 

"■ Tou're always dropping on to parties, Cis," said 
Bowers ; " but you had better keep quiet in this case, 
please. Tou would have to make your own chance of 
getting into a row, for of course the lady's name must not 
appear — " 

" Oh, don't you be afraid of me, Marky ; I'm all right ! " 
said Cis, rising and stretching himself. " Tou won't mind 
my stamping on Mitford' s feet, — accidentally, of course, — - 



MB wotp's "new stae." 315 

if we find him in the stalls." And the two Guardsmen 
started away together. 

" Well," said Lord Dollamore, leaning forward towards 
his companion, " was I right or wrong ? " 

" Eight ! terribly right ! " said Alsager, with a set rigid 
face. 

" Tou would not have accepted my testimony, thinking 
perhaps that I had motives for exaggeration, or was prompted 
By an arriere pensee, in which, on my word of honour, 
you're wrong. But those fellows are merely types of so- 
ciety ; and their opinion, somewhat differently expressed, is 
society's opinion." 

" Has not Mitford r s madness cooled down at all ? " 

" It is worse, far and away, — worse than ever — " 

" And that woman ? " 

" Ah," said Lord Dollamore, " she's been very quiet 
lately, owing to her husband's death. Poor old boy ! poor 
old Percy Hammond ! But she's up in town, I understand, 
now ; and I don't think — " and here Dollamore's crutch- 
handled stick was evidently whispering confidences into his 
master's ear, — " I don't think Master Mitford will find it 
all straight sailing in that quarter just now." 

" How do you mean ? What would induce her to change 
to him ? " 

* Well, you see, she's a widow now, with a compara- 
tively small income ; for I suspect poor old Percy knew 
more than he ever let on, and instructed Trivett to pre- 
pare his will accordingly. So that, besides wanting a hus- 
band, she'll want him rich ; for she's one of the best hands 
at getting through money in England. With a husband in 
posse, Mitford's attentions would not do at all." 

" Ah, I see ; but is not her character too well known?" 

"Not a bit of it; her powers of attraction are enormous 
still. Why, if I'm rightly informed, a Bussian whom you 
know, I think, — Tchernigow by name, — is making the run- 
ning there already." 

" I know him ; he was madly in love Avitli her, I heard, 
the season before last ; followed her to Baden and 
about." 

" That's the man ! Well, he's revenu — not to his premier, 



816 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

which was probably some Cossack peasant-girl — but to one 
of his amours, and is desperate." 

" He's enormously wealthy. If she accepted him, there 
might yet be a chance of happiness for GTeorgie, — Lady 
Mitford, I mean." 

" Don't you believe that for an instant, Alsager ! " said 
Dollamore, looking keenly at him ; " you're not posted up 
in that family history. Matters have gone too far now ; 
there is only one way in which Sir Charles Mitford could 
really be of service to his wife, and that is by dying. But 
I'm afraid she would not think so, poor girl!" Then 
seeing his companion looking very grave, he said, " Come, 
it's no use brooding over these matters ; let us go to the 
theatre." 

The theatre was crammed, as Mr Wuff had anticipated. 
The audience was composed of pretty much the same class 
of people as those present on the first night of Mr Spof- 
forth's play at the Parthenium ; with the exception of those 
who were most strongly remembered by Alsager. He had 
known that the Mitfords and Mrs Hammond could not be 
there, and there was little to interest him among the audi- 
ence. The curtain rose on the piece of the evening, and 
everybody's attention concentrated on the stage. Shortly 
afterwards came the appearance of the new actress, who 
was hailed with shouts of encouragement and applause by 
Mr WufF's supporters in boxes, pit, and gallery. She 
seemed not in the least overcome by her reception, but 
bowed gracefully, and entered immediately on the business 
of the piece. The character she played was that of a high- 
bred wealthy girl, beloved by a young yeoman-farmer of the 
neighbourhood, who proposes to her, but she mocks at his 
gaucheries, and rejects him with scorn. He accepts his de- 
feat, and goes away to travel on the Continent with his 
brother. It is not until he is gone that she finds how 
deeply she had really loved him ; but he is gone never to 
return, and so she accepts the attention of, and is enoao- e d 
to, a silly peer. Then comes the Nemesis. The girl's 
father is ruined, the peer jilts her, and she is left in wretch- 
edness, when the yeoman-farmer comes back a polished 



LOVE AND DUTY. 317 

gentleman. There is an admirable scene of intensity be- 
tween tliem, and, of course, all ends happily. The charac- 
ter of the heroine seemed excellently suited for Miss 
Greenwood, who, gradually winning the confidence of the 
audience, worked them to a pitch of enthusiasm in the 
last scene, and brought down the curtain with a uni- 
versal verdict of her combining thorough knowledge of the 
usages of society and lady -like manners with great dramatic 
power. 

Of course she was recalled before the curtain ; and then 
as she swept across the stage, clasping her bouquet to her 
bosom, and occasionally bowing low, her eyes lit full on 
those of Laurence Alsager. And then for the first time 
Laurence Alsager, who had been puzzling his brain about her 
ever since she appeared on the scene, recollected who she 
was, and said half aloud, " The woman who wrote me the 
note ! — Miss Gillespie, without a doubt ! " 



CHAPTEE XXVII. 



LOVE AND DUTY. 



Lady Mitford was alone on the afternoon of the following 
day, when Sir Laurence Alsager was announced. She was 
often alone now ; for the world falls readily and easily away, 
not only from the forsaken, but from the preoccupied — 
from those to whom its gaieties are childish follies and its 
interests weariness. She had fallen out of the ranks, as 
much through inclination as in compliance with the eti- 
quette of mourning ; and it came to pass often that the 
afternoon hours found her, as on this occasion, sitting alone 
in her splendid, vapid, faultless, soulless home. The soft- 
ened light which reached her stately figure and irradiated 
her thoughtful face showed the grace and loveliness which 
distinguished her untouched, undimmed. Under the dis- 
cipline of sorrow, under the teaching of disappointment, 



318 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

her face had gained in expression and dignity, — every line 
and curve had strength added to its former sweetness ; the 
pure steadfast eyes shone with deeper, more translucent 
lustre, and the rich lips met each other with firmer purpose 
and more precision. The perfecting, the refinement of her 
beauty, were sensibly felt by Alsager as he advanced to- 
wards the end of the room where she was seated in the 
recess between a large window and a glittering fireplace. 
She sat in a deep low chair of purple velvet ; and as she 
leaned slightly forward and looked at him coming rapidly 
towards her, his eye noted every detail of the picture. He 
saw the glossy hair in its smooth classic bandeaux, the stead- 
fast eyes, the gracious, somewhat grave, smile, the graceful 
figure in its soft robe of thick mourning silk, and its rich 
jet trimmings ; he saw the small white hands, gentle but 
not weak, — one extended towards him in welcome, the 
other loosely holding an open book. In a minute he was 
by her side and speaking to her ; but that minute had a 
deathless memory, — that picture he was to see again and 
again, in many a place, at many a time and it was never 
to be less beautiful, less divine for him. He loved her — 
ay, he loved her — this injured woman, this neglected, out- 
raged wife, this woman who was a victim, crushed under 
the wheels of the triumphal car which had maimed him 
once on a time, though only slightly, and by a hurt soon 
healed by the balsam of contempt. Was she crushed, 
though ? There was sorrow in that grand face — indeed, 
to that look of sorrow it owed its grandeur, — but there 
was no pining ; there was sad experience, but no weak vain 
retrospection. All the pain of her lot was written upon 
her face ; but none could read there a trace of what would 
have been its mortification, its bitter humiliation to com- 
moner and coarser minds. It mattered nothing to her that 
her husband's infatuation and their mutual estrangement 
were topics for comment to be treated in the style current 
in society, and she herself an object of that kind of com- 
passion which is so hard to brook : these were small things, 
too small for her range of vision ; she did not see them — 
did not feel them. She saw the facts, she felt their weight 
and significance ; but for the rest ! If Lady Mitford had 



IOVE AND DUTY. 319 

progressed rapidly in knowledge of the great world since 
she had been of it, she had also graduated in other sciences 
which placed her above and beyond it. 

" I am fortunate in finding you at home, Lady Mitford," 
said Alsager. 

She answered by a smile. They had got beyond the 
talking of commonplaces to each other, these two, in 
general ; but there was a sense of oppression over them 
both to-day, and each was conscious that it weighed upon 
the other. The remembrance of the talk to which he had 
listened at the Club, of the light discussion of Sir Charles's 
conduct, of the flippant censure of the woman who had won 
him from his wife, was very strong upon Alsager ; while 
she, — of what was she thinking ? "Who could undertake 
to tell that ? who could categorize the medley which must 
occupy the mind of a woman so situated ? Was she suf- 
fering the sharp pangs of outraged love ? or was she en- 
during the hardly less keen torture of discovering that that 
which she had believed to be love, had cherished in her 
breast as the true deity, had given, in that belief, to her 
husband, was not love, but only a skilful (and innocent) 
counterfeit, only a mock jewel which she had offered in 
good faith for the flawless pearl of price ? Who can tell ? 
She could hardly have answere.d such a question truly, if 
she had put it to herself at the close of the interview which 
began after so commonplace a fashion. 

" I have not seen you since your father's death," said 
Lady Mitford, gently ; and in a tone which lent the simple 
words all the effect of a formal condolence. "You have 
not been long in town, I'm sure ? " 

" jN"o, indeed," he said ; " I have but just returned. There 
is so much to be done on these occasions ; there are so 
many forms to be gone through ; there is so much imme- 
diate business to be transacted, in the interests of the living, 
that — that," — he hesitated ; for he had neared that pre- 
cipice so dreaded by all now-a-days, the exhibition of natural 
emotion. 

" That one has to wait for leisure to mourn for the dead," 
said Lady Mitford. " Ah, yes, I understand that. But 
you remain in town now, do you not ? " 



320 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

There was a tone of anxiety in the question which struck 
on Alsager's ear with a sound of music. She had missed 
him, then, — she would miss him if he went away again ! 
He loved her well, ay, and worthily, contradictory though 
that may seem ; but his heart was stirred with a joy which 
he dared not analyze, but could not deny, at the thought. 
He answered hurriedly, " Yes, I remain here now." And 
then he changed his tone, and said eagerly, 

" Tell me something of yourself. How has it been with 
you since we met last ? " 

" Of myself! " she replied sadly ; and her colour flushed 
and faded as she spoke, and her restless fingers trifled with 
the ornaments of her dress. " Myself is an unprofitable 
subject, and one I am weary of. I have nothing new to 
tell, — nothing you would care to hear." 

He dissented by an eager gesture ; but she appeared not 
to perceive it, and went on, with attempted gaiety : 

" We have missed you dreadfully, of course. I need not 
tell you what a void your absence must necessarily make. 
"We all know you are beyond spoiling." 

She looked at him, and something in his face warned her 
not to pursue this tone. She felt vaguely that the position 
was unreal, and must be changed. He knew, as she sup- 
posed, what she was thinking of; she knew, as he fancied, 
what he was thinking of; and though, as it happened, each 
was wrong, it was manifestly absurd to carry on false pre- 
tences any longer. Woman-like, she was the first to brave 
the difficulty of the situation. 

" Tou have come to me," she said steadily, and looking 
at him with the clear upheld gaze peculiar to her, " because 
you have heard something which concerns me nearly, and 
because, man of the world, — of this heartless world around 
us, — as you are, and accustomed to such things, still you 
feel for me ; because you would have prevented this thing 
if you could ; because you tried to prevent it, and failed ; 
because you knew — yes, Sir Laurence Alsager, because you 
knew the extent and the power of the danger that menaced 
me, and my helplessness : say, am I right ? — for these rea- 
sons you are here to-day." 

The composure of her voice was gone, but not its sweet- 



LOVE AND DUTY. 321 

ness ; her colour had faded to a marble paleness; and her 
hands were firmly clasped together. Alsager had risen as 
she spoke, and was standing now, leaning against the low 
velvet-covered mantelpiece. He answered hurriedly, and 
with scant composure : 

" Tes, Lady Mitford, for these reasons, and for others." 

" For what others ? " 

This almost in a whisper. 

" Never mind them now," he said impetuously ; and then 
the superficial restraint which he had imposed upon himself 
gave way, broke down before that strongest and most ter- 
rible of temptations, the sight of the sorrow and the silent 
confidence of the woman one loves, granted at the moment 
when a hope, a guilty hope, that that love may not be vain, 
begins to stir, like life, at one's heart. She shrank a little 
back in the chair, but she looked at him as earnestly as 
before. 

" It's all true, then," he said, — and there was a tone of 
deep and bitter hatred in his •voice, — " all true. The pro- 
phecy I heard among those fellows the first time I ever 
heard your name- — the coarse language, the cynical fore- 
sight, — all true. That heartless demon has caught his 
shallow nature in her shallow lure, and worked the woe of 
an angel ! " 

His voice rang with a passionate tremor, his eyes deep- 
ened and darkened with the passionate fervour which glowed 
in them. His impetuous feeling mastered her. She had no 
power to arrest him by a conventional phrase, though he 
had overstepped more than conventionality by invading the 
sacred secrecy of her domestic grief. 

" Tes, Lady Mitford," he went on ; "I have returned to 
find that all I feared, — more than I feared, — has befallen 
you. It was an unequal contest ; you had only innocence 
and purity, an old-fashioned belief in the stability of human 
relations and the sanctity of plighted faith ; and what 
weapons were these in such a fight ? No wonder you are 
vanquished. No wonder she is triumphant — shameless as 
she is heartless. I wound you," he said, for she cowered 
and trembled at his words ; " but I cannot keep silence. I 
have seen shameful things, — I am no stranger to the dark 

21 



322 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

passages of life ; but this is worse than all. Good God ! to 
think that a man like Mitford should have had such a 
chance and have thrown it away ! To think that — " 

" Hush, Sir Laurence ! " she said, and stretched her hand 
appealingly towards him ; " I must not hear you. I cannot, 
I will not affect to misunderstand you ; but there must be 
no more of this. I am an unhappy woman — a most wretched 
wife ; all the world — all the little world we think so great, 
and suffer to torment us so cruelly — knows that. Pretence 
between us would be idle ; but confidence is impossible. I 
cannot discuss Sir Charles Mitford' s conduct with any one, 
least of all with you." She seemed to have spoken the last 
words unawares, or at least involuntarily, for a painful blush 
rose on her face and throat. 

" And why," he eagerly asked, — " why least of all with 
me ? I have been honoured by your friendship, — I have 
not forfeited it, have I ? I know that conventionality, 
which is a systematic liar and a transparent hypocrite, 
would condemn in theory a woman to keep her garments 
folded decorously over such mortal heart-wounds ; I know 
that poets snivel rhymes which tell us how grand and great, 
how high and mighty, it is ' to suffer and be strong.' I 
know how easy some people find it to see others suffer, and 
be perfectly strong in the process ; but such rubbish is not 
for you nor for me. I cannot return to London and hear 
all that I have heard ; I cannot come here and look upon 
you — " his voice faltered, but he forced it into the same 
hurried composure with which he had been speaking. " I 
cannot see you as I see you now, and talk to you as an or- 
dinary morning visitor might talk, or even as we have talked 
together, when these things were coming indeed, but had 
not yet come. 

She was leaning forward now, her face turned towards 
him, but hidden in her hands. He gazed at her with a 
kindling glance, and strode fiercely backward and forward 
across the wide space which lay before the window. 

" I am not a good man," he went on, " according to your 
standard of goodness, Lady Mitford ; but I am not a bad 
man according to my own. I have had rough tussles with 
life, ai|d some heavy falls ; but I swear there is a dastardly. 



IOVB AND DUTY. 323 

cold, heartless ingratitude in this business which I cannot 
bear ; and in the sight of you there is something terrible to 
me. Men know this man's history ; we know from what 
degradation you raised him ; we are not so blind and coarse 
that we cannot guess with what fidelity and patience you 
loved him when it was afc its deepest. And now, to see him 
return to it ; to see him, without any excuse of poverty or 
struggle, in the enjoyment of all that fate and fortune have 
blindly given him ; to see him play the part of a liar and a 
villain to you — to you — to see you left unprotected, openly 
neglected and betrayed, to run the gauntlet of society such 
as ours ! I cannot see all this, Lady Mitford, and pretend 
that I do not see it ; and what is more, you do not wish 
that I could. Tou are too true, too womanly to form such 
a wish ; and you are too honest to express it, in obedience 
to any laws of cant." 

He went near to her ; he bent down, he lowered his 
voice, he gently drew away the hands that hid her face from 
him ; they dropped into her lap, nerveless and idle ; the 
first tears he had ever seen in her eyes dimmed them now. 

" You mean kindly, as you have always meant to me, Sir 
Laurence," she said ; " but we cannot discuss this matter, — 
indeed we cannot. I am weaker than I ought to be, — I 
should not listen to this ; bat oh, God help me, I have no 
friends ; I am all alone, all alone ! " 

If she had been beautiful in the pride and dignity of her 
sorrowful composure, if his strong heart had quailed and his 
firm nerve had shrunk at the sight of her pale and placid 
grief, how far more beautiful was she now, when the re- 
straint had fallen from her, when the eyes looked at him 
from the shadow of wet lashes, and the perfect lips trembled 
with irrepressible emotion 

" No ! " he said vehemently ; and as he spoke he stood 
close before her, and stretched his hands towards her, but 
without taking hers ; the gesture was one of mingled denial 
and appeal, and had no touch of boldness in it ; " no, you 
are not alone ; yes, you have friends, — at least you have one 
friend. Listen to me, — do not fear to hear me ; let us at 
least venture to tell and listen to the truth. This man, to 
whom you were given as a guardian angel, is quite un- 



324 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

worthy of you. You know it ; your keen intellect accepts 
a fact and all its consequences, however terrible to your 
woman's heart, and does not palter with the truth. Are 
you to be always miserable because you have been once 
mistaken? If you had known, if you had been able to 
comprehend the real nature of this man, would you, could 
you ever have loved him ? " 

She put up her hand with a faint gesture of protest ; but 
he impetuously waved it away, and went on, once more 
striding up and down. 

" No, no ; I must speak ! There can be more reticence 
now. You would not, you could not have loved him, this 
heartless, ungrateful profligate, as tasteless and low as he is 
faithless and vicious, — this scoundrel, who, holding good in 
his grasp, has deliberately chosen evil. Ay, I will say it, 
Lady Mitford ! You could not have loved him, and you 
know it well ; you have admitted it to yourself before now, 
when you little dreamed that any one — that I — would ever 
dare to put your thought in form and shape before you. 
What did you love ? A girl's fancy, — a shadow, a dream ! 
It was no reality, it had no foundation, and it has vanished. 
Your imagination drew a picture of an injured victim of 
circumstances, — a weak being, to be pitied and admired, to 
be restored and loved ! The truth was a selfish scoundrel, 
who has returned in wealth with fresh zest to the miserable 
pleasures for which he lived in poverty ; a mean-hearted 
wretch, who could care for your beauty while it was new to 
him indeed, but to whose perception you, your heart and 
soul, your intellect and motives, were mysteries as high and 
as far off as heaven. Are you breaking your heart, Lady 
Mitford, under the kindly scrutiny of the world, because 
the thistle has not borne figs and the thorn has not given 
you purple grapes ? Are you sitting down in solitary grief 
because the animal has done according to its kind, because 
effect has resulted from cause, because the wisdom of the 
world, wise in the ways of such men, has verified itself? 
Do you love this man now ? Are you suffering the pangs 
of jealousy, of despair ? JNo, you do not love him ; you are 
suffering no such pangs. You are truth itself,— the truest 
$nd the bravest, as you are the most beautiful of women ; 



LOVE AND DUTY. 325 

abd you cannot, you dare not tell me that you love this 
man still, knowing him as you know him now." He stopped 
close beside her, and looked at her with an eager, almost a 
fierce glance. 

" "Why do you ask me ? " she gasped out faintly. There 
was a sudden avoidance of him in her expression, a shadow 
of fear. " "Why do you speak to me thus ? Oh, Sir Lau- 
rence, this — this is the worst of all." She was not con- 
scious of the effect of the tone in which these words were 
spoken, of the pathos, the helplessness, the pleading tender- 
ness it implied. But he heard them, and they were enough. 
They were faint as the murmur of a brook in summer, but 
mighty as an Alpine storm ; and the barriers of conventional 
restriction, the scruples of conscience, the timidity of a real 
love, were swept away like straws before their power. 

" Why ? " he repeated, " because I love you ! " 

She uttered a faint exclamation ; she half rose from her 
.chair, but he caught her hands and stopped her. 

" Hush ! " he said ; " I implore you not to speak till you 
have heard me ! Do not wrong me by supposing that I 
have come here to urge on your unwilling ear a tale of 
passion, to take advantage of your husband's crime, your 
husband's cowardice, to extenuate crime and cowardice in 
myself. Before Grod. I have no such meaning ! But I 
love you — I love you as I never even fancied I loved any 
woman before ; though I am no stranger to the reality or 
the mockery of passion, though I have received deep and 
smarting wounds in my time. I wish to make myself no 
better in your eyes than I am. And I love you — love you 
so much better than myself, that I would fain see you 
happy with this man, even with him, if it could be. But it 
cannot, and you know it. You know in your true heart, 
that if he came back to his allegiance to you now — poor 
bond of custom as it is — you could not love him, any more 
than you could return to the toys of your childhood. I 
read you aright ; I know you with the intuitive knowledge 
which love, and love only, lends to a man, when he would 
learn the mystery of a woman's nature. You are too 
noble, too true, to be bound by the petty rules, to be 
governed by the small scruples, which dominate nine-tenths 



326 KUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

of the women who win the suffrages of society. You have 
the courage of your truthfulness." 

He stood before her, looking steadfastly down upon her, 
his arms tightly folded across his chest, his breath coming 
quickly in hurried gasps. She had shrunken into the 
recesses of her velvet chair, and she looked up at him with 
parted lips and wild eyes, her hands holding the cushions 
tightly, the fingers hidden in the purple fringes. "Was it 
that she could not speak, or that she would not ? How- 
ever that may have been, she did not, and he went on. 

" Yes, yes, I love you. I think you knew it before ? " 
She made no reply. " I think I have loved you from the 
first, — from the moment when, callous and blase as I had 
come to believe myself — as, Grod knows, I had good right 
to be, if human nature may ever claim such a right, — I 
could not bear to see the way your fate was drifting, or to 
hear the chances for and against you calculated, as men 
calculate such odds. I think I loved you from the moment 
I perceived how completely you had mistaken your own 
heart, and how beautifully, how innocently loyal you were 
to the error. While your delusion lasted, Lady Mitford, 
you were safe with me and from me, for in that delusion 
there was security. While you loved Mitford, and be- 
lieved that he returned your love, you would never have 
perceived that any other man loved you. But you are a 
woman who cannot be partially deceived or undeceived ; 
therefore I tell you now, when your delusion is wholly at 
an end, when it can come no more to blind your eyes, and 
rend your heart with the removal of the bandage, that I 
love you, — devotedly, changelessly, eternally. You must 
take this fact into account when you meditate upon your 
future ; you must number this among the component parts 
of your life. Hush ! not yet. I am not speaking thus 
through reckless audacity, availing itself of your position ; 
you know I am not, and you must hear me to the end." 

She had made a movement as if about to speak, but he 
had again checked her ; and they maintained their relative 
positions, he looking down at her, she looking up at him. 

" We are facing facts, Lady Mitford. I love you, not 
as the man who left you, in your first year of marriage, for 



LOVE AND DUTY. 327 

the worthless woman who forsook me for a richer lover, 
and would have wronged the fool who bought her without 
a scruple, could she have got me into her power again — not 
as he loved you, even when he came nearest to the truth of 
love. That woman, your enemy, your rival" — he spoke 
the word with a stringent scorn which would have been 
the keenest punishment in human power to have inflicted 
on the woman it designated, — " she knows I love you, and 
she has struck at me through you ; struck at me, poor 
fool — for she is fool as well as fiend — a blow which has 
recoiled upon herself. She has taught me how much, how 
well, how devotedly I love you, and learned the lesson 
herself thereby, for the intuition of hate is no less keen 
than that of love. But why do I speak of her ? Only to 
make you understand that I am a portion of your fate, — 
only to lay the whole truth before you ; only to make it 
clear to you that mine is no chance contact, no mere in- 
trusion. I am not a presumptuous fool, who has dared to 
use a generously-granted friendship as a cover for an illicit 
passion. Have patience with me a little longer. Let me 
tell you all the truth. Tou cannot dismiss me from your 
presence as you might another who had dared to love you, 
and dared to tell you so ; you cannot do this." 

" Why ? " she asked faintly, but with an angry sparkle 
in her eyes. For the second time she said that one word. 

" Because I have injured you, Lady Mitford, — injured 
you unconsciously, unintentionally ; and that is a plea 
which cannot fail, addressed to such as you. Had I never 
crossed your path, the woman for whom your husband has 
wronged you would never have crossed it either. I am 
the object, you are the victim, of the hatred of a she-devil. 
You don't suppose she cares for Mitford, do you ? " 

" ISTot if she ever loved you," was the reply. 

Alsager passed it over, but a sudden light flashed into 
his face. 

" Of course she does not. She has played her ruthless 
game skilfully according to her lights, and your happiness 
has been staked and lost. Indirectly, I am the cause of 
this. Was the feeling which came over me the first time I 
saw you a presentiment, I wonder ? Well, no matter ; 



328 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

you see now that I am a portion of your fate. You see 
now that a hidden tie hinds us together, and the folly, the 
delusion of my youth, and the mistaken love of your girl- 
hood, have borne mysterious common fruit." 

She sat like one enthralled, entranced, and listened to 
him ; she bent her head for a moment as he took an 
instant's breath, but she did not attempt to speak. His 
manner changed, grew softer, and his voice fell to almost a 
whisper : 

" May not this mysterious tie of misfortune mean more 
to us ? " he said. " May not the consolation come, as the 
curse has come, and all the designs of our enemies be dis- 
concerted? I do not say my love is worthy of your 
acceptance, — I am too much travel-stained in my wander- 
ings in the world's ways to make any such pretension ; but 
it is yours, such as it is — faulty, imperfect, but loyal and 
eternal. I love you, Lady Mitford, and I ask nothing of 
you but permission to love you freely and fully ; I ask 
your leave to give you all the devotion of my heart, all the 
loyalty of my life. I know how the Avorld would hold such 
a demand ; but I care nothing for the world, and I fancy 
you. know it too well to care much for it now. You 
cherished a delusion long and sacredly ; it was at least a 
noble one, but it is gone, and the world can neither satisfy 
you for its loss nor substitute another. Dearest — " he 
paused ; she shivered, but she said not a word, — " dearest, 
what remains ? " r Inexpressible tenderness was in his 
voice, in his bending figure, in his moistened eyes. There 
was a moment's silence, and then she spoke, replying to his 
last words : 

" Duty, Sir Laurence, — duty, the only thing which is 
not a delusion ; that remains. " 

He drew back a little, looking at her. She raised her- 
self in her chair, and pointed to a seat at a little distance 
from her own. She was deadly pale, but she did not 
tremble, and her voice was firm and low as she said : 

" Sit down, and listen to me." 

He obeyed, silent and wondering. Perhaps he had not 
told himself exactly what he had expected, — perhaps no 
one ever does, when the emotions of the heart are called 



LOVE AND DUTY. o2'J 

into evidence ; but he knew that it was not this. Had he 
more to learn of this woman whom he had so closely 
studied; had her nature heights which he had not seen, 
and depths which he had not comprehended ? Breathless 
he waited for her words. In an agony of suspense he 
looked at her averted face, which appeared to address itself 
to something in the distance, — which had settled into a 
wondrous composure at the command of the strong will. 
He had not estimated that strength of will aright ; he had 
made the common mistake of overlooking a quality because 
he had not seen it in active employment. There was neither 
confusion nor weakness in the manner of the woman to 
whom he had just spoken such words as no woman could 
hear unmoved ; and there mingled strangely with his love 
something of Avonder and of awe. 

After a little interval, which seemed endless to him, she 
turned her face towards him again, laid her hand heavily 
upon her breast, and spoke : 

" Tou have been cruel to me, Sir Laurence, in all that 
you have said ; but men, I believe, are always cruel to 
Avomen if they love them, or have loved them. I acquit 
you of intentional cruelty, and I accept all you say of the 
necessity for the truth being spoken between us in the neAV 
phase of our relation Avhich you have brought about to-day." 

The intensity of her face deepened, and the pressure of 
her hand greAV heavier. He muttered a few words of 
protest, but she Avent on as if she had not heard him. 

" Tou have spoken words to me, Sir Laurence, Avhich I 
should not have heard ; but they have been spoken, and 
the wrong cannot be undone. It may be atoned for, and 
it must. ^Neither these words nor any other must be 
spoken betAveen us henceforth — " 

He started up. 

'■ Tou cannot mean this," he said ; " it is impossible ; I 
do not believe it, — I will not bear it." 

" Be still and hear me," she replied ; " I kept silence at 
your desire, — you will not, I am sure, do less at mine. I 
too must speak to you, uninterrupted, in the spirit of that 
truth of Avhich you have spoken so eloquently and with 
such sophistry — yes, Avith such sophistry." 



330 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

Once more she paused and sighed. 

" Speak to me, then," he said ; and there was true, real 
anguish in his tone. " Say what you will, but do not be 
too hard on me. I am only a mortal man; if I have 
off ended you, it is because you are an angel." 

" You have not offended me," she said very slowly : 
" perhaps I ought to be offended, but I am not. I think you 
judge me aright when you say that truth holds the foremost 
place in and for me : therefore I tell you truth. Tou have 
grieved me ; you have added a heavy burden to a load 
which is not very easy to bear, though the world, which you 
exhort me to despise and to deny, cannot lay a feather's 
weight upon it. Tour friendship was very dear to me, — 
very precious ; I did not know how dear, I think, until to- 
day." 

How eagerly he listened to the thrilling voice ! how 
ardently he gazed into the dreamy beautiful eyes ! how 
breathlessly he kept the silence so hard to maintain ! 

" If I could use any further disguise with myself, Sir 
Laurence, if self-deception could have any further power 
over me, I mighfHerminate this interview here, and tell 
you, and tell myself, that it should be forgotten. But I 
have done with self-deception." 

" For Grod's sake, don't speak in that bitter tone ! " 
Alsager said entreatingly ; " spare me, if you will not spare 
yourself." 

" No," she replied ; " I will spare neither you nor myself. 
"Why should I ? The world has spared neither of us — 
will spare neither of us ; only it will tell lies, and I will tell 
truths, — that's all." 

Her colour was heightened, and her eyes were flashing 
now ; but the pressure of her hand upon her bosom was 
steady. 

" You have read my story aright : I know not by what 
art or science — but you have read it. If, as you say, you 
have an involuntary share, an unconscious responsibility in 
my heavy trial, it is a misfortune, which I put away from 
my thoughts ; I hold you in no way accountable. My 
sorrow is my own; my delusion is over; my duty remains." 



LOVE AND DUTY. 33l 

" Do you speak of duty to Sir Charles Mitford? " asked 
Alsager with a sneer. 

" Yes," she said gently ; " I do. Your tone is unworthy 
of you, Sir Laurence ; but I pass it by ; for it is the tone 
of a man of the world, to whom inclination is a law. Can 
my husband's faithlessness absolve me from fidelity? Is his 
sin any excuse for my defection from my duty ? You say 
truly, I cannot love him now as I loved him when I did not 
know him as he is ; but I can do my duty to him still — a 
hard duty, but imperative. The time will come when this 
woman will weary of him, of her vain and futile vengeance; 
and then — " 

" Well, Lady Mitford, and then — ? " asked Alsager in a 
cold hard voice. 

She looked at him with eyes in which a holy calm had 
succeeded to her transient passion, and replied : 

" Then he will return to me, and I must be ready to 
meet him without a shade upon my conscience, without a 
blush upon my cheek." 

He started up angrily, and exclaimed : 

" You pass all comprehension ! What ! You are no 
longer in error about this man ; the glamour has passed. 
You know him for the cold cynical profligate he is ; and you 
talk of welcoming him like a repentant prodigal ; only 
yourself it is you are prepared to kill — your own pride, 
your own delicacy, your own heart ! Good Grod ! what are 
good women made of, that they set such monstrous codes 
up for themselves, and adhere to them so mercilessly ! " 

" He is my husband," she faltered out ; and for a mo- 
ment her courage seemed to fail. The next she rose, and 
standing by the mantelpiece, where he had stood before, 
she went on, with hurry and agitation in her voice : " Don't 
mistake me. Love is dead and gone for me. But this 
world is not the be-all and the end-all ; there is an inherit- 
ance beyond it, reserved for those who have ' overcome.' 
Duty is hard, but it is never intolerable to a steadfast will, 
and a mind fixed on the truth. Time is long, and the 
round of wrong is tedious ; but the day wears through best 
to those who subdue impatience, and wrong loses half its 



332 KUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

bitterness "when self is conquered. I have learned my les- 
son, Sir Laurence, and chosen my part." 

"And what is to be mine ? " he said with angry impa- 
tience, — " what is to be mine ? Tou moralize charmingly, 
Lady Mitford ; and your system is perfect, with one little 
exception — and what is that ? A mere nothing, a trifle — 
only a man's heart, only a love that is true ! You are all 
alike, I believe, bad or good, in this, — you will pine after, 
you will endure anything for, a man who is false to you, and 
you will tread upon the heart of one who is true. What 
do you care ? We do not square with the moral code of 
the good among you, nor with the caprice and devilment of 
the bad ; and so away with us ! I am ' cruel ' to you, for- 
sooth, because I tell you that you no longer love a worth- 
less profligate, who sports with your peace and your honour 
at the bidding of a wanton ! I am ' cruel ' because I tell 
you that I, who have innocently wronged you, love you 
with every pulse of my heart and every impulse of my will ! 
Is there any cruelty on your side, do you think, when you 
talk, not puling sentiment — I could more easily pardon 
that ; it would be mere conventional silliness — but these 
chilly, chilling moralities, which are fine in copy-books, but 
which men and women abandon with their writing-lessons? " 

" Do they ? " she said with imperturbable gentleness ; 
"■ I think not. Tou are angry and unjust, Sir Laurence, — 
angry with me, unjust to one ! " 

The keen pathos of her tone, its innocent pleading, utterly 
overcame him. 

" Yes," he cried ; " I am unjust, and you are an angel of 
goodness ; but — -I love you, — ah, how I love you ! — and 
you reject me, utterly, utterly. You reject me, and for 
him ! You give her a double triumph • you lay my life 
waste once more." 

He stopped in his hurried walk close to her. She laid 
her hand upon his arm. and they looked at one another in 
silence for a little. She broke it first. 

" And if I did not reject you. as you say — if I accepted 
this love, this compensating truth and loyalty, which you 
offer me, what should I be, Laurence Alsager, but her 
compeer ? Have you thought of that ? Have you remem- 



LOVE AND DUTY. 333 

bered that there is a law in marriage apart from and above 
all feeling ? Have you considered what she who breaks 
that law is, in the sight of Glod, in the unquenchable light 
of her own conscience, though her conduct were as pure 
from stain as the ermine of a royal robe ? I am speaking, 
not chilly, chilling moralities, but immortal, immutable 
truth. Iu the time to come you will remember it, and 
believe it ; and then there will be no bitterness in your 
heart when you recollect how I bade you farewell ! " 

The lustrous eyes looked into his with a gaze as pure as 
an infant's, as earnest as a sibyl's, and the gentle hand lay 
motionless upon his arm. 

" How you bade me farewell ! " he repeated in a hoarse 
voice. " What do you mean ? Are you sending me from 
you?" 

" Yes," she answered ; " I am sending you from me. We 
have met once too often, and we must meet no more. Tou 
say you love me ; " she shrunk and shivered again, — " and 
—and I believe you. Therefore you will obey me." 

" No," he said resolutely ; " I will not obey you ! I will 
see you, — I must. What is there in my love to frighten or 
to harm you ? I ask for nothing which even your scrupul- 
ous conscience might hesitate to give ; I seek no change in 
the relation that has subsisted between us for some time 
now " 

" Dreams, dreams," she said, sadly ; " unworthy of your 
sense, — unworthy of your knowledge of the world. Nothing 
can ever replace us on our old footing. The words you 
have spoken to me can never be unsaid. They are words I 
never ought to have heard — -and — " In a moment her 
firmness deserted her, her voice failed; she sank into a 
chair, and burst into passionate tears. 

" Tou would not have them unsaid ! " he cried ; " tell me 
that you would not ! Tell me that the coldness and the 
calm which those streaming tears deny are not true, are not 
real ! Tell me that I am something in your life, — that I 
might have been more ! Dearest, I reverence as much as 
I love you ; but give me that one gleam of comfort. It 
cannot make your heavenly rectitude and purity poorer, 
while to me it will be boundless riches. Tell me that vou 



334 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

could love ine if you would ; tell me that tlie sacred barrier 
of your conscience is the only one between us ! I swear I 
will submit to that ! I will not try to shake or to remove 
it. Nay, more, I will leave you, — if indeed you persist in 
commanding my absence, — if only you will tell me that 
under other circumstances you would have loved me. Tell 
me this ! I ask a great, a priceless boon ; but I do ask it. 
Dearest, will you not answer me ? " Her agitation, her 
tears, had reassured him, had broken the spell which her 
calmness had imposed. The hope that had come to him 
once or twice during their interview came again now, and 
stayed. 

There was no sound for a while but that of her low rapid 
sobs. The clocks upon the mantelpieces in the suite of 
rooms ticked loudly, and their irritating metallic voices 
mingled strangely with the rushing pulses of Alsager's 
frame, as he leant over her, — one arm round the back of 
her chair, the other hand upon its velvet arm. His face 
was bent above her drooping head ; his thick moustache 
almost touched the waved ridges of her scented hair. He 
implored her to speak to him ; he poured out protestation 
and entreaty with all the ardour of his strong and fiery 
nature, with all the eloquence which slumbered in him, un- 
suspected even by himself. Little by little she ceased to 
weep, and at length she allowed him to see her face. Again 
he renewed his entreaties, and she answered him. 

" You try me too far, and I am weak. Tes, I would 
love you, if I might ! " 

" Then you do love me ! " he exclaimed. " Tou and I 
are no dreaming boy and girl, no Knight and Dame of old 
romance, but man and woman ; and we know that these 
shades of difference are merest imagination. We love each 
other, and we know it. We love each other, and the ac- 
knowledgment makes the truth no truer. I am un- 
generous, you would say ; I am breaking the promise I 
have just made. Tes, I am ; but I love you — and you love 
me ! " He had dropped on one knee beside her chair now, 
and as he spoke he caught her hand in his. Without any 
sign of anger or prudery, she withdrew her hand quietly, 
but resolutely, and signed to him to rise and be seated. 



LOVE AND DUTY. 335 

He obeyed her ; but exultation shone out from every line 
and feature of his face. 

" You are ungenerous," she said, — " very ungenerous, 
and very cruel ; but I will not the less be true in these the 
last words I shall say to you. If I have dreamed of a life 
other than mine, of love well bestowed and faithfully re- 
turned, it was only in the most passing, transient visions. 
My lot is cast ; my mind is made up ; my heart is fixed. I 
linger here for a few moments longer because they are the 
last I shall ever pass alone with you. Do not interrupt me, 
or I terminate this interview on the instant. This subject 
must never be renewed, — indeed it never can be ; for you 
know my resolution, and I know you will respect it. The 
past remains with us ; but the future has no common history 
for you and me. When I have ceased speaking, and that 
door has closed behind you, you must remember me, if you 
do not see me, and regard me if you do, as a woman wholly 
devoted to her wifely duty, of whom to think otherwise is 
to do a deadly wrong." 

He stood before her as pale as she had been ; something 
wrathful and something reverential contended in his ex- 
pression. She waved her hand with a slight gesture, and 
went on : " Now I have done with myself ; there is no 
more question of me. But of you, Sir Laurence, there is 
much and serious question. Tour life is aimless and unreal. 
Give it an object and an aim ; invest it with truth, occupy 
it with duty. I am speaking with you face to face for the 
last time, and I go back to the old relation which you have 
destroyed for a few minutes. In that relation I speak to 
you of your father's death-bed request. Fulfil it ; and by 
doing so, end this vain and sinful strife, — quell this demon 
which deludes you." 

" You mean that I should marry my father's ex- ward, I 
presume ? " said Alsager, coldly. 

" I do." 

" Thank you, Lady Mitford. Your proposition is full of 
wisdom, however it may lack feeling. But there are sun- 
dry objections to my carrying it into effect. The lady does 
not love me, nor do I love the lady." 

" You hardly know her," Lady Mitford said with a timid 



336 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

smile ; " you have not given yourself any opportunity of 
testing your power of obedience to your father's dying wish. 
Tou cannot judge of how she would be disposed towards 
you." Once more she smiled timidly and sadly. " You 
would have little cause to fear ill-success, I should think." 

" Except that in this case, Lady Mitford, the lady's affec- 
tions are preengaged, and she is doubtless a miracle of con- 
stancy." 

" Tou speak bitterly, Sir Laurence, but your bitterness 
will pass, and your better nature will assert itself." 

" Is this all you intend to say to me, Lady Mitford ? " 

" This is all. My words will supplement themselves in 
silence and reflection, and you will acknowledge that I have 
spoken the truth — that I am as true as you believe me." 

" And are we to part thus ? " he asked in a slightly soft- 
ened tone. 

A quick spasm crossed her face, but she answered him at 
once, and looked at him as she spoke, " Tes ! " 

He bowed profoundly She held out her hand. On the 
third finger was a heavy-looking seal-ring, which she con- 
stantly wore. As he coldly took the hand in his, his eyes 
fell upon this ring. She marked the look, and when he 
released her hand, she drew off the ring and offered it to 
him. 

" You are angry with me now," she said ; " but your 
anger will pass away. When no shade of it remains, 
wear this for my sake, and make its motto, which is mine, 
yours." 

He took the ring, and without looking at it, dropped it 
into his waistcoat-pocket. Then he stood quite still as she 
passed him with her usual graceful step, and watched the 
sweep of her soft black robe as she walked down the long 
room, and disappeared through a door which opened into 
her boudoir. 

Late that night Alsager, angry still, dark and wrathful, 
tossed the ring with a contemptuous frown into a jewel- 
case ; but he first took an impression of it in wax, and read 
the motto thus : " Fortiter — Fideliter — Feliciter." 



337 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 



SIR LAURENCE'S LETTER. 



Helen Manningtb.ee and Mrs Chisholm pursued their 
customary mode of life at Knockholt Park after, as before, 
the departure of Sir Laurence. Helen missed the grave 
and courteous gentleman whom she had learned to like so 
much, and her at first distant association with whom had 
grown into intimacy and confidence. Sir Laurence was a 
most agreeable companion ; well-informed, 1 and entirely 
without any sort of pretension. He had seen a great deal 
of the world — in the geographical sense of the term, as well 
as in every other ; and his anecdotes of travel and descrip- 
tions of foreign lands had unflagging interest for Helen, 
whose experience had indeed been narrow, but whose read- 
ing had been mrious and extensive. In the thoughtful 
mood into which Alsager had fallen — in the serious frame 
of mind which had become almost habitual with him now — 
he would probably have been voted a bore by " society," 
supposing that he had placed himself within reach of its 
suffrages ; but Helen knew nothing of the tastes and fash- 
ions of the great wprld, and to her Laurence was all that 
was most companionable and pleasant. He was not indeed 
so gifted, so cultivated a creature as Cuthbert Earleigh ; 
but then, — who was ? who could be expected to be ? And 
Helen, whose circle of acquaintance included a dozen un- 
married men at the most, believed with perfect good faith 
that she had exercised the soundest judgment and discretion 
in her selection of the Reverend Cuthbert, from " all the 
world," as the individual to whom alone she could render 
unqualified respect and intrust the happiness of her future 
life. That resolution, before mentioned, by which the 
curate had bound himself, to himself, to wait until he 
should be a bishop, or for the occurrence of any other equal- 

22 



338 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

]y improbable event, was rather in the way of Helen's hap- 
piness, either present or future ; but she was not much 
disquieted by the delay. Cuthbert had seen no symptoms 
of an alarming nature to indicate any " intentions " on 
Colonel Alsager's part prior to Sir Peregrine's death, and 
he was ignorant of the existence of the old Baronet's letter, 
in which he had urged a marriage with Helen upon Sir 
Laurence. He had begun to think, within a very few days 
of Colonel Alsager's arrival at Knockholt, that he had been 
foolishly apprehensive in the first instance. Was it at all 
likely that, at Colonel Alsager's age, and in his position, 
with his opportunities of seeing, and recommending himself 
to, the fairest and most fascinating women in the world, he 
should be entirely heart-free and ready to fix his affections 
upon his father's ward ? Of course Cuthbert was quite 
aware that Laurence Alsager could never by any possibility 
have met any one half so worthy of admiration and of love 
as Helen Manningtree ; but he was a young man of candid 
mind, and ready to acknowledge that a man might be pre- 
occupied to the extent of being unable to recognize the un- 
approachable excellence of Helen without being guilty of 
absolute stupidity or unpardonable bad taste. So, on the 
whole, these young people were tolerably comfortable in 
their minds, aud felt an equable though unexpressed confi- 
dence in their mutual affection and in the future. The 
circumstance of Sir Peregrine Alsager's will making no 
mention of Helen — in fact, having been made before she 
became his ward, and during Lady Alsager's lifetime — had 
taken them both by surprise, and affected them differently. 
Helen had always known that her own very moderate in- 
come — which Sir Peregrine had always supplemented by a 
liberal allowance — was all that she actually possessed, or 
had any positive right to expect. But she had never 
entertained any doubt that her guardian intended to leave 
her a handsome provision, and she experienced a consider- 
ble shock when she learned that he had not done so. She 
could not understand it, and she was still more puzzled and 
surprised when Sir Laurence told her that he found himself 
a very much richer man than he had ever expected to be. 
Helen had too much good sense, and even in her secluded 



sir Laurence's letter. 339 

life had learned to estimate facts and to eschew sentimental 
fallacies ; so she did not affect to be indifferent on the sub- 
ject, or to think that it was quite as well to be poor as to 
be rich, to be dependent as to be independent ; but she did 
think and feel with very consoling sincerity that Cuthbert 
would have no more scruples about asking her to share his 
lot when her own had ceased to be of a nature to contrast 
with it. So she accepted her altered position cheerfully, 
and asked Sir Laurence what he would advise her to do, 
with a true-hearted freedom from anger or jealousy which 
elevated her to a great height in the mind of the new 
Baronet. Sir Laurence made her an evasive answer, and 
begged her to defer any decision on the subject until bis 
return to Knockholt. He was going away, first to town, 
and then abroad, he told her, most probably ; and she and 
Mrs Chisholm must remain and take charge there for him. 
He would keep up the establishment just as it had been, 
with the exception of the stable department. Helen ac- 
quiesced with great readiness. She was too completely a 
lady to feel any awkwardness in such an arrangement, and 
she knew well that Laurence's interests would be best 
served by her accepting his offer. 

" I will stay here then," she said, " and go on just as 
usual. I don't know whether you are aware that I was Sir 
Peregrine's almoner. Am I to be yours ? The farm-bailiffs, 
the keepers, and all the rest of your people, are my excel- 
lent good friends. I shall get on capitally with them, 
and go my old rounds in the village, and so forth. But 
I want to know what I am to do about the charities, 
the schools, and the promiscuous applications to the ' great 
house.' " 

" I would give you unlimited credit with Todd, Helen, 
for all your requirements in that way, but that I fear you 
would be too conscientious to make sufficient use of it. 
But stay ; the best plan will be to arrange it with Parleigh. 
Yes ; I'll speak to him, and tell Todd he is to give him any- 
thing he asks for. I daresay he won't mind a little addi- 
tional trouble in the cause of his poor people ; and you 
can do the visiting and all that as usual, and report to 
him." 



340 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

Sir Laurence looked at Helen as lie made this remark- 
ably convenient proposition for rendering the intercourse 
between the Park and the Kectory (for Cuthbert lived at 
the rector's house ; that is to say, in a corner of it) more 
frequent than it was at present. Helen grew extremely 
red, and then turned the conversation. 

" So, I suppose," said she to Mrs Chisholm, after Sir 
Laurence had taken his leave, and the two women were 
talking over his visit and all the late events, — " so I sup- 
pose we shall live here until Sir Laurence is married ; and 
then, when he brings a handsome, dashing, fashionable 
Lady Alsager down here, you and I, dear old woman, will 
go and live in the village ; perhaps that pretty little house 
with the roses and the little white fountain, just big enough 
for the two ducks that are always swimming in it, may be 
vacant then ; and I daresay Laurence would give it to us 
rent-free, and we should be very snug there ; but we would 
not have ducks, except for dinner ; and Lady Alsager would 
have us up to tea, I daresay, when there were no fine peo- 
ple at the Park. What do you say to all this, Mrs Chis- 
holm ? doesn't it sound pleasant ? What a cosy , little 
place it is ! don't you think so ? " 

" My dear Helen, how you do run on ? " said the calmer 
Mrs Chisholm ; " you are quite in spirits to-day " 

She was ; for in her sketch of the rural abode with the 
roses there had been an unmentioned element. Helen 
thought the house would be quite the thing for a curate. 
Helen was always thinking about a curate ; and in that re- 
spect there was considerable sympathy between her and 
her companion, for Mrs Chisholm was almost always think- 
ing of a curate too. Helen's curate was living ; Mrs 
Chisholm's was dead. The girl's heart was in a dream 
of the future ; the woman's, in the memory of the sacred 
past. 

Cuthbert Parleigh had received the intelligence of Sir 
Peregrine Alsager's unaccountable conduct towards Helen 
Manningtree with mingled feelings. He was by no means 
a commonplace young man, though not the light of learn- 
ing and the mirror of chivalry which Helen believed him. 
Her over-estimate of him did him no harm, for he enter- 



sm laueence's letter. 341 

tained a tolerably correct opinion of himself; and if the 
future were destined to unite them, it would probably not 
militate against her own happiness either. The mistake 
she made was in degree, not in kind, — a distinction which 
makes all possible difference. A sensible and dutiful woman 
may find out that her husband is not possessed of the 
qualities with which she has believed her lover to be en- 
dowed, to the extent with which she accredited him, and 
her love and esteem may not suffer by the discovery. She 
would probably recognize that if she had over-rated him 
(and Avhat a dreadful woman she would be if she had not !) 
on some points, she had also failed to discover his merits on 
others, until the intimacy of domestic life had restored the 
balance of judgment. The mistake, which lays a woman's 
life waste in its rectification, is that which endows a man 
with qualities which he does not possess at all, — the mis- 
take which leads to the conviction that the man she has 
married is not the man she loved, and burdens her with an 
actual duty and a lost ideal. If Helen Manningtree were 
ever to marry Cuthbert Parleigh, she would incur no such 
danger ; she would have to pay no such price for the in- 
dulgence of undisciplined imagination. He was a good and 
a clever man, and was as highly and wholly disinterested as 
it is possible for a human being to be, to whom the con- 
sideration of meat, drink, clothing, and house-rent is one of 
rational importance. 

He regarded his position with respect to Helen as very 
much improved by the fact that Sir Peregrine Alsager had 
not left her the fortune, which the gossips of the neighbour- 
hood had taken for granted, and even announced " on au- 
thority." On the other hand, he grieved that she should 
be deprived of the luxurious home and the opulent manner 
of life to which she had been so long habituated ; and as he 
was not at all a conceited man, — albeit flattered and exalted 
by all the ladies in the parish, which is ordinarily the bane 
of curates, — it did occur to him that perhaps Helen 
might have been better and happier if Sir Peregrine 
had left her the fortune, and he had adhered to his reso- 
lution of leaving her to its enjoyment, unwooed by him. 
Such a supposition was not likely to last long ; its cold chill 



342 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

would pass off in the sunshine of free and acknowledged 
love. Eree and acknowledged love ? Yes, the curate was 
going to tell Helen, as soon as he should have learned the 
particulars of her position, that she had not erred in believ- 
ing that he loved her, and to ask her to take all the risks 
and all the cares of a life which could never have any bril- 
liancy or any luxury to offer her, for the sole consideration 
of sharing them with him. He had not the smallest doubt 
of his success. Helen's nature was too true, and too well 
known to him, to render a misgiving possible ; still the 
near approach of the assurance of his hope made him grave 
and solemn. The orphan-girl loved and trusted him ; with- 
out him she was alone — alone in a world which is not very 
easily gotten through with the best of help and companion- 
ship. The sense of a great responsibility rested upon him, 
and his heart was lifted up in no merely conventional or 
professional prayer. So Cuthbert made up his mind, and 
felt very quiet and solemn about it. That mood would pass 
away ; it would be succeeded by the dazzling delight, the 
splendid triumph, the fertile fancy, and superhuman hope 
and exultation of love, as it ought to be ; but it is a good 
omen for any woman whose lover addresses himself to his 
wooing in such a temper. 

Thus it fell out that Helen and Cuthbert, standing to- 
gether by a window which opened on the broad stone ter- 
race, and watching poor Sir Peregrine's peacocks, as they 
marched up and down outside, talked of a future which Avas 
to be common to them both, and was to date from the ex- 
piration of the year of mourning for Sir Peregrine Alsager. 
Helen had told Cuthbert how she had sketched such a charm- 
ing picture for Mrs Chisholm, of the house with the roses ; 
and they had talked a good deal of the nonsense incidental to 
their position, and which is so much pleasanter than sense, 
— about whether she had thought of him ; and if she had, 
why she had ? — for there is a subtle resemblance to Jack 
Bunsby's monologue in the dialogues of lovers ; — and then 
the conversation drifted away to Sir Laurence Alsager. 

"We must tell him, my own HeleD," said the curate; 
" he has been very kind to you, and I daresay will be very 
much disgusted at your making so poor a marriage." 



sir Laurence's letter. 343 

The girl looked reproachfully at him, but smiled in a mo- 
ment, and said, " Gro on, Cuthbert ; you are not worth con- 
tradicting, you know." 

" No, but — " said Cuthbert, remonstrating, " you must 
let me set the world's view before you. No doubt Sir 
Laurence will think you very foolish ; but he will always be 
our friend, — I feel sure of that, — though I know he is so 
different, and lives in so different a world, under so different 
a system. Sometimes, Helen, I have had an idea that he 
found out my secret ; though I never could see an inch 
farther into his life and his heart than it was his good 
pleasure I should look. Tes, my darling, he must know all 
about us, and soon ; for you must remember that it may 
make a difference in all his plans and arrangements, if he 
finds you are not to remain here after next spring." 

" I hardly think it will do that," said Helen ; " I fancy 
he wdl establish Mrs Chisholm here en permanence ; that 
is to say, until he marries." 

" Is he likely to marry ? Have you heard anything of 
that sort ? " 

" O no ! he has never talked of any girls to me. He has 
never said anything the least like intending to marry. The 
only woman he ever speaks of — and he does talk of her, and 
sometimes hears from her— is Lady Mitford ; you remem- 
ber, you told me about her marriage, — the daughter of Mr 
Stanfield, your old tutor, you know." 

" Of course, I remember. How strangely things come 
about ! it really seems as if there were only two sets of 
people in the world ; for one never meets any one with 
whom one has not some link of communication ! And 
Georgie Stanfield is Laurence Alsager's female crony and 
correspondent ! How and where is she ? " 

" In town, I believe ; but I don't know much about her. 
He used to speak of her vaguely, in talking to me of the 
great world and its hollowness, as of one whom he greatly 
liked and esteemed, and who was unfortunately circum- 
stanced. He said he would have asked Lady Mitford down 
here in the autumn, if he could have asked her without her 
husband ; but that, of course, was impossible, and he could 
not invite Sir Charles Mitford. I believe they are very 



344 KUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

unhappy. Think of that, Cuthbert, — a husband and wife- 
unhappy! a splendid home, with rank and wealth, and 
misery ! " The girl lifted solemn eyes full of wonder and 
compassion to her lover's face. ■ " Sir Laurence wished that 
I could know her, for her sake, he kindly said." 

" I wish you could, Helen ; you would comfort her and' 
do her godd : and yet I would not have you saddened, my 
child, and made wise in the possibilities of life, as you must 
be if you had the confidence of an unhappy wife. You are 
better without it, darling — far better without it." 

Then the curate remembered the alarm he had felt when 
Colonel Alsager made his appearance at Knockholt Park ; 
and he confessed it to Helen, who laughed at him, and pre- 
tended to scold him, but who was not a little pleased all the 
time. 

" You stupid Cuthbert ! " said the young lady, to whom 
the curate had ceased to be an object of awe since their en- 
gagement ; " it never came into Laurence's head to wish to- 
marry me ; and I am certain it never crossed any human 
being's imagination but your own that such a thing could 
ever happen." 

The Reverend Cuthbert was reluctantly obliged to break 
off the conversation at this point, and go about his parish 
business. So he took leave of Helen, enjoining her to 
write to Sir Laurence that very day, and to make him ac- 
quainted with their engagement, — as Mrs Chisholm, who 
had just entered the room, and to whom he referred the 
matter, gave it as her decided opinion that the communica- 
tion should be made by Helen. 

The post was not a subject of such overwhelming im- 
portance at Knockholt Park, its punctuality was not so 
earnestly discussed, nor was there as much excitement on its 
arrival, as at the generality of country-houses. Mrs Chis- 
holm had very few correspondents ; Helen had only two,, 
exclusive of Sir Laurence ; and no letters were " due " at 
this particular time : hence it happened that the ladies often 
left the breakfast-table before the arrival of the letter-bag, 
and that its contents awaited their attention undisturbed 
through more hours of the day than most people would be- 
lieve possible. Mrs Chisholm never read the newspapers- 



sir laukence's lettee. 345- 

until the evening, and Helen never read them at all, being 
content with Cuthbert's version of public affairs. On this 
particular morning, however, Helen thought proper to re- 
main in the breakfast-room until the post should arrive. 
The truth was she shrank from the task of writing to Sir 
Laurence, and she knew she ought to set about it at once ; 
so she lingered and fidgeted about the breakfast-room long 
after Mrs Chisholm had betaken herself to her daily con- 
fabulation with the housekeeper. Thus she was alone 
when the letter-bag was brought in, and she turned over its 
contents, expecting to find them of the usual uninteresting 
nature. There were several letters for Sir Laurence " to 
be forwarded," a number of circulars, a few letters for some 
of the servants, the customary newspapers, and lastly — a 
missive for Helen herself. It was a large letter in a blue 
envelope, and directed in a lawyer-like hand. Helen 
opened it, fueling a little frightened, and found that the 
cover enclosed a packet addressed to her, in the hand of 
Sir Laurence Alsager, and marked " Private." 

" What on earth can Laurence be writing to me about 
that requires such precaution ? " thought Helen anxiously ; 
and then she rang the bell, handed over the other letters to 
the footman for proper distribution, and retired to her own 
room, where she read the following : 

" Dover. 

" My dear Helen, — -I am devoting the last evening 
which I shall pass in England for an indefinite period, to 
writing to you a letter, which I shall take the precaution of 
sending so that its existence may be known to none but 
you, at the present time. A certain portion of its contents 
must necessarily be communicated to others ; but you will 
use your discretion, upon which in this, and all other things,. 
I rely, with absolute confidence. 

" Tou must not let this preamble alarm you ; there is 
nothing to occasion you any trouble or sorrow in what I am 
about to say to you. It will be a long story, and, I dare- 
say, a clumsily-told one, for I am eminently unready with 
my pen ; but it will interest you, Helen, for my sake and 
for your own. When I tell you that this story is not a new 
one, — that it does not include anything that has occurred 



346 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

after I left Knockholt, though I am indirectly impelled to 
write it to you by circumstances which have happened since 
then, — you will wonder why I did not tell it to you in per- 
son, during the period when our companionship was so 
close and easy, — so delightful to me, and I am quite sure I 
may add, so pleasant to you. I could not tell you then, 
because I was not sufficiently sure of myself. I had an 
experiment to try — an experience to undergo — before I 
could be certain, even in the limited sense of human security, 
of my own future ; and until these were over and done 
with, all was vague for me. They are over and done with 
now : and I am going to tell you all about yourself, and a 
good deal about myself. 

" Tou know that among the sorrows of my life there is 
one which must be life-long. It is the remembrance of my 
conduct to my father, and of the long tacit estrangement 
which preceded our last meeting, and which, but for a pro- 
vidential interposition, might never have been even so far 
atoned for and mitigated as it was before his death. It 
would be difficult to account for this estrangement ; it is 
impossible to excuse it ; there never was any reproach on 
either side,— indeed there could not have been on mine, for 
the fault was all my own, — and there never was any ex- 
planation. My father doubtless believed, as he was justified 
in believing, that any wish of his would have little weight 
with me ; — he seldom expressed one ; and I am convinced 
that one thing on which he had set his heart very strongly, 
one paramount desire, he cautiously abstained from express- 
ing, that he might, by keeping me ignorant of it during his 
lifetime, give it the additional chance of realization which 
it might derive from the sanctity of a posthumous appeal 
to the feelings of an undutiful and careless son, when those 
feelings should be intensified by unavailing regret. I did 
learn, dear Helen, after the barrier of eternal silence had 
been placed between my father and me, that he had cher- 
ished one paramount desire, and that he had resorted to 
such an expedient in order to induce me to respect and to 
fulfil it. 

" My amazement and discomfiture when I found that my 
father's will was of so far distant a date that it made no 



sir Laurence's letter. '3 47 

mention of you were great. I could not understand why 
he had not supplemented the will which existed by another, 
in which you would be amply provided for, and his wishes 
concerning your future fully explained. My long and wil- 
ful absence from my father had prevented my having any 
real acquaintance with you. To me you were merely a 
name, — seldom beard, hardly remembered. Had I not 
gone to Knockholt when I did, you would have remained 
80 ; and there was no one else who could be supposed to 
take an obligatory interest in you. How came it, I thought, 
that my father bad taken no precaution against such a con- 
tingency — which, in fact, had so nearly been a reality ? 
You will say he trusted to the honour and the gentlemanly 
feeling of his son ; and so I read the riddle also ; but re- 
flection showed me that I was wrong. A more strictly just 
man never lived than my father ; and he must have been 
strictly unjust had he allowed the future fortunes of a 
young girl whom he had reared and educated — who had 
been to him as a daughter for years — to depend upon the 
caprice or the generosity of a man to whom she was an 
utter stranger, and between whom and herself the tie of 
blood was of the slightest description. Nor was delicacy 
less characteristic of my father than justice. (Ah, Helen, 
bow keenly I can see all these things now that he is gone !) 
He would have shrunk as sensitively as you would from 
anything that would have obliged you and me to meet for 
the first time in the characters of pensioned and pensioner. 
I knew all this ; and I was utterly confounded at the ab- 
sence of any later will. I had the most complete and dili- 
gent search made ; but in vain. There was no will, Helen, 
but there was a letter. In the drawer of the desk which 
my father always used, there was a letter. How do you 
think it was addressed ? Not to ' my son ' — not to ' Colonel 
Alsager;' but to 'Sir Laurence Alsager, Bart.'! It was 
a painful letter — painful and precious ; painful because a 
tone of sadness, of disappointment, of content in feeling 
that the writer had nearly reached his term of life, per- 
vaded it ; precious because it was full of pardon and peace, 
of the fulness of love for his only son. I cannot let you 
see the letter, — it is too sacred for any eyes but those for 



848 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

"which it was intended ; but I can tell you some of its con- 
tents, and I can make you understand its tone. As a 
mother speaks to her son going forth into the arena of life, 
the night before their parting, in the dark, on her knees, 
by his bedside, with her head upon his pillow ; as she speaks 
of the time to come, when she will watch and wait for him, 
of the time that is past, whose memories are so precious, 
which she bids him remember and be brave and true ; as 
she makes light of all his faults and shortcomings, — so did 
my dear old father — my father who had grown gray and 
old ; alone, when I might have been with him, and was not 
— write to me. Grod bless him, and God forgive me ! He 
never reproached me, living ; what punishment he has in- 
flicted upon me, dead ! The letter was long ; and it varied, 
I think, through every key in which human tenderness can 
be sung. But enough of this. 

"A portion of the contents concerned you nearly, my 
dear Helen. I can repeat them to you briefly. I knew, 
and you know, that your father and my father — very dis- 
tant relatives — had been playmates in boyhood, and attached 
friends in manhood. We knew that your father died on 
his voyage home from India, and just after he had consigned 
you and your black nurse to the care of the captain of the 
ship, to be sent, on landing, to Knockholt Park. I believe 
you have your father's letter to my father, in which he 
solemnly, but fearlessly, entreats his protection for the 
orphan child, whose credentials it is to form. He had left 
your mother and her baby in an alien grave at Barrackpore r 
and I suppose he had not the strength to live for you only, 
' little Kelly,' as they called you then. At all events, he- 
died ; and I knew in a vague kind of way about that, and 
my father's care of you, and how you grew up with him, 
and made his home cheerful and happy, which his only son 
left carelessly, and forsook for long. The letter recapitu- 
lated all this, and told me besides, that your mother had 
been my father's first love. Perhaps she was also his only 
love — Grod knows. He was a good husband to my mother 
during their brief married life, I am sure ; for I remember 
her well ; and she was always smiling and happy. But the 
girl he loved had preferred Robert Manningtree with no- 



SIE LAURENCE'S LETTER. 349 

thing but his commission, to Peregrine Alsager with a large 
estate and a baronetcy for his fortunate future. My father, 
preux chevalier that he was, did not forget to tell me that 
she never repented or had reason to regret tliat preference. 
Thus, Helen, you were a legacy to him, bequeathed not 
alone by friendship, but by love. As such he accepted you ; 
as such he prized you, calm and undemonstrative as he was ; 
as such it was the cherished purpose of his life to intrust 
you to me — not that I was to be your guardian in his place, 
but that I was to be your husband. He thought well of 
me, in spite of all, you see ; he did not despair of his un- 
gracious son, or he never would have dreamed of conferring 
so great a privilege on me, of suffering you to incur so 
great a risk. He had. had this darling project so strongly 
in his mind, and yet had been so convinced that any be- 
trayal of it to me would only prevent my seeking you, that 
my persistent neglect of the old home had a double bitter- 
ness for him ; and at length, two years ago, hearing a 
rumour that I was about to marry one of the beauties of' 
the season, he relinquished it, and determined to make a 
will, bequeathing to you the larger portion of his unentailed 
property. The rumour was true as to my intentions, but 
false as to my success. The lady in question jilted me for 
a richer marriage, thank God ! I don't say this from 
pique, but from conviction ; for I have seen her and her 
husband, and I have seen her since her husband's death. 
She did not hold her perjured state long ; nor did she win 
the prize for which she jilted me. I am a much richer 
man than her husband ever was, and he has left her com- 
paratively poor. In a storm of rage and disgust I left 
England, without going to Knockholt — without having seen 
you since your childhood — without bidding my father fare- 
well. This grieved him much : but I was free ; I was not 
married. I was labouring under angry and bitter feelings 
towards all womankind. I should come home again, my 
father thought, still unmarried, and his hope would be ful- 
filled. He did not make the will. I remained away much 
longer than he supposed I should have done, and not nearly 
so long as in my anger and mortification I had determined 
to remain. Tou know the rest, dear Helen — you know 



350 KUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

that I lingered and dallied with time and duty, and did 
not go to Knockholt until it was all but too late. A little 
while before he met with the accident, my father had 
written a letter somewhat similar in purport ; but he had 
not seen me then, and I suppose it was not warmly affec- 
tionate enough for the old man's liking, and he wrote that 
which I now mention at many, and, I fear, painful, inter- 
vals of his brief convalescence. It was finished just a week 
before he died. 

" You will have read all this with emotion, Helen ; and 
I daresay at this point your feelings will be very painful. 
Mine are little less so, and the task of fully explaining them 
to you is delicate and difficult. The truthfulness, the can- 
dour of your nature will come to my assistance when you 
read, as their remembrance aids me while I write. 'My 
first impulse on reading my father's letter was to exult in 
the thought that there was anything possible to me by 
which his wishes could be respected. My second — and it 
came speedily — -was to feel that the marriage he desired 
between us never could take place. Are you reassured, 
Helen ? Have you been frightened at the image your 
fancy has created, of a debt of gratitude to be discharged 
to Sir Peregrine at the cost of your own happiness, or dis- 
avowed at the cost of seeming cold, ungrateful, and unduti- 
ful ? Have you had a vision of me in the character of an 
importunate suitor, half imploring a concession, half press- 
ing a right, and wholly distasteful to you ? If you have, 
dismiss it, for it is only a vision, and never will be realized 
to distress you. Why do I say this ? Because I know 
that not only do you not love me, but that you do love 
Cuthbert Farleigh. Forgive the plainness and directness 
with which I allude to a fact yet perhaps unavowed to him, 
but perfectly well known by and acknowledged to your- 
self. No betrothal could make you more truly his than 
you have been by the tacit promise of your own heart — I 
know not for how long, but before I came to Knockholt 
Park, I am sure. If I had not seen the man, I should 
equally have discerned the fact, for I am observant ; and 
though I have, I hope, outlived the first exuberance of 
masculine conceit, I did not err in imputing the tranquil, 



sir laukence's letter. 351 

lady-like indifference with which you received me to a pre- 
occupied mind, rather than to an absence of interest or 
curiosity about the almost unknown son of your guardian. 
Life at Knockholt Park has little variety or excitement to 
offer ; and the advent of a Guardsman, a demi-semi-cousin, 
and an heir-apparent, would have made a little more im- 
pression, would it not, had not the Church secured its pro- 
per precedence of the Army ? I perceived the state of 
things with satisfaction ; for I liked you very much from 
the first, and I thought Cuthbert a very good fellow ; just 
the man to hold your respect all his life long and to make 
you happy. In my reflections on your share, then, in the 
impossibility of the fulfilment of my father's request, I ex- 
perienced little pain. My own was not so easily disposed 
of after his death as during his life. I was destined to 
frustrate his wishes. Had you and I met, as we ought to 
have done, long before ; had I had the good fortune to have 
seen you and learned to contrast you with the meretricious 
and heartless of your sex, who had frittered away my heart 
and soured my temper, perhaps, Helen, I might have won 
you, and the old man might have been made happy. 

" We met under circumstances which made any such des- 
tiny for us impossible, for reasons which equally affected 
both. My preoccupation was of a different sort from yours ; 
it had neither present happiness nor future hope in it, — it 
had much of the elements of doubt and fear ; but it was 
powerful, far more powerful than I then thought, and power- 
ful it will always be. All this is enigmatical to you, dear 
Helen, and it must remain so. I would not have said any- 
thing about it, but that I owed it to you, to the friendship 
which I trust will never know a chill, to prevent your sup- 
posing that your share in the frustration of my father's 
wishes is disproportionate to mine. I would not have you 
think — as without this explanation you might justly think 
— that I magnanimously renounce my claims, my preten- 
sions to your love in favour of the actual possessor. No, 
Helen ; for us both our meeting was too late. "We were 
not to love each other ; I was not to be suffered to win the 
heart of a true and priceless woman, such as you are, when 
I had not a heart to give her in exchange. But though 



352 BUNKING THE GAUNTLET. 

we were not to love each other, we were destined to be 
friends — friends in the fullest and firmest sense; and believe 
me, friendship between a man and woman, with its teen 
sympathy, its unrestrained confidence, and its perfect toler- 
ation, is a tie as valuable as it is rare. 

" Now I have told yon almost all I have to tell about my 
father's letter. I suppose we shall both feel, and continue 
always to feel, that there was something hard, something 
almost cruel in the fate which marked him out for disap- 
pointment, and you and me for its ministers. But this 
must be ; and we must leave it so, and turn to the present 
and vital interests of our lives. We shall think of him and 
mourn for him none the less that we will speak of this no 
more. 

" Strong as was my father's desire for our marriage, dear 
Helen, and his persuasion that it would come to pass, in his 
abstraction and his want of observation he failed to take 
Farleigh into account ; or perhaps, like all old people, he 
did not realize the fact that the child, the girl, had grown 
into a woman. He did not quite forget to provide for the 
contingency of its non-fulfilment. ' If, for any reason, it 
may not bo. Lance,' he wrote — ' if Florence Hillyard's child 
is not to bo the mistress of the home which might have been 
her mother's, see that she has a dowry befitting my daugh- 
ter and your Bister.' Xo sentence in his letter touched me 
more with its simple trust than did that. 

" I have seen very clearly into the state of your feelings, 
ns 1 am sure you allow, and I don't think I have blundered 
about that of Farleigh's. He has not told you informal 
words the fact patent to every one's observation, that he 
entirely reciprocates your devotion (don't be vexed, Helen ; 
one may pet a curate, you know), because he's poor, and you 
were likely to be rich. He believes, as every one believes, 
that you are as poor as himself; a belief, by the way, which 
does not say much for the general estimate of my character 
' — but that does not matter ; and in that faith he will not 
hesitate any longer. "Will you be discreet, and say nothing 
at all of my intention of carrying out this privately-ex- 
pressed wish of my father ? Will you prove your possession 
of the qualities I give you credit for, by leaving Cuthbert 



sir Laurence's letter. 353 

in the belief that lie will have in you a portionless bride, 
save for your dowry of beauty and worth ? I really almost 
think you will, Helen ; especially as, though you do not 
need any farther confirmation of Farleigh's nobility of mind 
than the silence he has hitherto kept, and the alacrity with 
which he will now doubtless break it, it will be well for 
Mrs Chisholm and for myself, your only friends, to know 
how amply he fulfils our expectations. I almost think you 
will ; but I intend to make assurance doubly sure by not 
giving you the slightest satisfaction on the subject of my 
intentions. When your marriage is near, you shall learn 
how I mean to fulfil my father's last injunction, but not till 
then ; and if you tell Farleigh anything about it until I give 
you leave, I vow I won't give you a shilling. 

" You see I have written myself into good spirits, dear 
Helen ; the thought of you cheers me almost as your kindly 
presence would do. What more have I to say ? Not much 
more of myself, or of yourself, save that the dearest and 
warmest wish I entertain is for your welfare. 

" I shall send from my first halting-place on the Conti- 
nent full instructions to Todd, in case my absence should 
be much prolonged. I cannot speak with any certainty 
of its duration ; it does not depend on my own inclination. 

" And now, in conclusion, I am going to ask you to do 
something for me, which I shall take as the truest proof 
that the friendship I prize and rely upon is really mine. I 
am sure you have not forgotten the friend I mentioned to 
you — Lady Mitford. I have seen her in town, and found 
her in much grief and perplexity. The cause of her sorrow 
is not one on which I can venture to enter to you ; but it 
is deep-seated, incurable. I am much distressed for her, 
and can in no way defend or comfort her. She was 
an only child, motherless, and brought up in seclusion 
by her father, — an exemplary country clergyman, but a 
man w r hose knowledge of the world was quite theoretical 
and elementary, and who could not have trained her so 
that she would know how to encounter such trials as hers ; 
he probably did not know that such could exist. As I told 
you at Knockholt. she has no female friend; unfortunately 

she has female enemies — one in particular. My great wish 

23 



354 KUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

is to procure her the one, and defend her from the other. 
I may fail in the latter object ; but you, Helen, can aid 
me, if you will, to fulfil the former. I have spoken to 
her about you, and hare assured her that she might trust 
in your kindliness, though your inexperience is far greater 
than her own. I cannot bring you together now — there 
is no time or opportunity ; but I want you to promise me 
that, if at any time during my absence from England Lady 
Mitford asks you to come to her, you will go promptly, and 
will be to her all that is in you to be to one unjustly op- 
pressed, cruelly betrayed, and sorely afflicted. Will you do 
this for me, Helen ? and will you give me an assurance 
that I may rely upon you to do it (this is the only portion 
of my letter which you need reply to, if you have any feel- 
ing that you would rather not) before next Wednesday, 
and addressed to me at the Hotel Meurice, Paris ? — Always 
affectionately yours, 

" Laurence Alsager." 



CHAPTEE XXIX. 

a "tercel gentle." 



Sir Laurence Alsager's angry mood was of short dura- 
tion. The day after that interview in which he had spoke 
words that he had never intended to speak, and heard words 
which he had never thought to hear, he felt that a great 
change had fallen upon him. This woman who had rejected 
his love, not because she did not reciprocate it, but because 
it was unlawful ; this woman who had had the strongest 
and subtlest temptation which can assail the human heart- 
set before her — -the temptation at once of consolation and 
of retaliation, of revenge upon the husband who had deceived 
and the enemy who had injured her, and who had met it 
with utterly disarming rectitude ; this woman to whom duty 
was dearer than love, — she had changed the face of the 



a "tercel gentle." 355 

world and the meaning of life for him. He had many, 
times believed a lie, and not seldom had he worshipped a 
sham ; but he has detected the one and exposed the other, 
and gone on his way not much the worse for the delusion, 
and a good deal wiser for the experience. Life had, how- 
ever, never brought him anything like this before, and he 
knew it never would again. He should never, love, he could 
never love, any other woman than this peerless one who 
could never be his, from whom her own mandate — he knew 
its power and unchangeableness — had severed him, whom 
he must leave in the grasp of sorrow and perplexity He 
mused long and painfully over the interview of the preced- 
ing day, and he asked himself how it was that, dear as she 
had been to him, early as he had ceased to struggle against 
her influence, he had never understood the strength, the 
dignity, the perfect rectitude of her character before. It 
never occurred to Sir Laurence that he had not looked for 
these qualities ; that he had never studied her disposition 
but in the most superficial way ; that his love for her was 
founded upon no fine theory whatsoever ; that it had sprung 
up partly in admiration of her exceeding beauty, partly in 
chivalrous compassion for her disastrous situation, and found 
its remaining constituent in a hearty contempt and abhor- 
rence of Sir Charles Mitford. In short, Sir Laurence did 
not understand that he had done just as other people do, — 
fallen in love with a woman first, and found out what sort 
of woman she really was afterwards. 

Sir Laurence's reverie had lasted a long time before the 
consideration of his own immediate movements occupied any 
place in it. When it did so, he formed his resolution with 
his accustomed promptitude. He had told them at "Knockholt 
that he might perhaps go abroad ; and now abroad he would 
go. He must leave London ; he could not bear to witness 
the progress of this drama, in which he had so vital an 
interest, only as an ordinary spectator. He was parted 
from her ; she was right — there could be no pretext of 
friendship in their case. Even if he could have obscured 
her clear perception and misguided her judgment ; even if 
he could have persuaded her to receive him once more on 
the footing of a friend, he would have disdained to avail 



356 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

himself of such a subterfuge. The surest test a man can- 
apply to the worth and sincerity of his love is to ask him- 
self whether he would deceive its object in order to win 
her ; if he can honestly say no, he is a true lover and a gen- 
tleman. Sir Laurence asked himself such a question, and 
was answered, no. He could not stand the Club-talk ; he 
could not meet those men to whom she furnished matter 
for conversation, — not insolent indeed, so far as she was- 
concerned, but intolerable in its easy, insouciant, flippant 
slang and indolent speculation in the ears of the man who 
loved her. He could not stop it ; if he remained in town 
he must endure it, or forsake the society of all his custom- 
ary associates, which was not to be thought of. Such a 
course of proceeding as that, in addition to depriving him 
of resources and leaving him nothing to do, would give 
rise to no end of talk and all kinds of surmises. If he 
started off suddenly, nobody knowing why, and went nobody 
knew where, it would be all right,- — it would be only " Al~ 
sager's queer way ; " but if he stayed in town and saw no 
one, or changed his set, then, indeed, that would be quite 
another matter. One's own set has toleration for one's 
queer ways, to which they are accustomed, but they de- 
cidedly object to any but habitual " queerness ; " they will, 
not bear with new developments, with running off the 
rails. 

Tes, he would go ; and the sooner the better. There 
was nothing to detain him now. He would have liked to 
see Miss Gillespie perhaps : but, after all, what good could 
it do ? Her connection with the Hammonds, and through 
them with the Mitfords, had long been at an end ; her 
mysterious note had warned him that her power was over ; 
so that what could she do ? and what had he to say to her ? 
Persons of her sort were never safe to talk to, and were so 
full of caprice that she might either resent his visit or 
ignore the subject of Lady Mitford altogether ; if she had 
ever had any interest in her, and it had been genuine, it 
was not likely she retained it now. No ; he would not 
linger for the pxirpose of seeing her, — he would go at once. 
Whither ? To Paris first, of course ; and then he would 
consider. "Was he always to be a wanderer ? he thought ;. 



6)< 

was he never to realize any of the good resolves, to put 
in practice any of the views, he had been indulging in 
lately ? Was Knockholt to remain masterless, because he 
could not settle down to the interests and the occupations 
which sufficed for other and better men ?— men who had 
not been exempted from the common lot either ; — men, to 
many of whom their heart's desire had not been granted. 
Could he not now do as his father had done ? No, not 
yet ; the restlessness of mental trouble was upon him ; the 
pain of unaccustomed moral processes ; the shivering chill 
of the dawn of a new kind of light and a new system of 
thought. No doubt this would not be always so ; after 
a time he could find rest and tranquillity in the duties 
and enjoyments of a country baronet's existence. Was 
this what she meant? Was this strength to do, and 
fidelity in adhering to duty, the noble law by which she 
ruled her life ? Were they to bring him to the happiness 
which seemed so distant, so impossible ? Were not the 
words upon the ring her message, her counsel, her com-, 
mand ? Ah, well, if so, he might — he would try to follow 
them some day ; but for the present he must get away. 
Like every wounded animal, he must seek refuge in flight, 
he must get him to the covert. 

Sir Laurence Alsager did not remember, amid all his 
musings, that he was alone in the enjoyment of this re- 
source ; that she remained where her feet trod on thorns, 
and heart fed on bitterness — remained in the straight path 
of her duty, strong and faithful. 

Tes, he would go at once, — that evening. He gave his 
servant the necessary orders, and then applied himself to 
writing letters on matters of business. While thus en- 
gaged a note was brought to him, and he was informed that 
the bearer awaited the answer. The note was enclosed in 
an oblong envelope, bordered with black about an inch 
deep, so that room was barely left for the address. He 
knew the handwriting well ; he had been accustomed to 
see it in combination with every kind of coquetry in 
stationery ; and he smiled grimly as he noted the mingled 
hypocrisy and coquetry of this very pretty and impressive 
affliction in black and white. 



858 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

" What the devil is she at now ? " thought Sir Laurence, 
as he broke the accurately-impressed seal. He had not 
had any communication with Mrs Hammond since he left 
liedmoor in the spring; he had heard not quite all perhaps, 
but enough about her to make him shrink from any further 
acquaintance with her, as much from disgust of herself as 
from indignation on Lady Mitford's account ; and he gave 
her too much credit for a sufficiently accurate knowledge 
of the machinery of London society, and the unfailing 
circulation of scandal, to entertain any doubt that she was 
well aware that he must inevitably hear, and had by this 
time heard, the stories that were rife about her. He was 
not in the least aware to how great an extent she had been 
actuated by torturing jealousy of him, though, as he had 
told Lady Mitford, he knew one of her motives was re- 
venge ; but he was prepared to give Laura Hammond 
credit for any amount of spite of which human nature is 
capable ; still, what purpose could she have to serve by 
opening any communication with him ? He read the note 
as he asked himself the question. It was dated from the 
house in Portman Square, and contained only a few lines. 
Mrs Hammond had heard of Sir Laurence Alsager's arrival 
in town, and was particularly desirous of seeing him. She 
begged he would send her a line to say whether he could 
conveniently call upon her the same evening ; she said 
evening, as no doubt his mornings were fully occupied with 
the business entailed by his acquisition of rank and fortune, 
on which she begged to offer her congratulations ; and she 
equally, of course, did not go out anywhere, or receive 
(ordinary) visitors. She hoped Sir Laurence Alsager 
would comply with her request, as she wished to speak to 
him concerning a person in whom he was interested, and 
whom his acquiescence would materially benefit (under- 
lined) ; and she remained his most faithfully. 

" A snare and a bait," said Laurence, as he stood with 
the note in his hand, uncertain what reply he should make. 
His first impulse was to write that he was leaving London 
that afternoon ; but he hesitated to do that, as it occurred 
to him she would be surprised at the abruptness of such a 
step, and setting her serpentine sagacity to work, might 



A "tekcel gentle." 359' 

arrive at guessing something at least proximate to the 
truth. Curiosity ; a strong conviction that Laura would 
not venture to tamper with his patience too far, and would 
not have dared to take this step without some motive ; a 
vivid recollection of the interview which had taken place 
between them before the memorable visit to Eedmoor, of 
his threat, and Laura's evident appreciation of its sincerity ; 
finally, an irresistible longing to hear what Laura might 
have to say about Lady Mitford, and a vague dread that a 
refusal might in some indescribable way injure her, — 
decided him. 

He wrote a short formal note, to the effect that Sir 
Laurence Alsager would have the honour of calling upon 
Mrs Hammond at eight o'clock that evening, despatched it, 
and then returned to his letters. 

Sir Laurence did not dine at the Club that day ; he was 
in no mood to meet the men whom he must have met, and 
who would have made him pay the price of his popularity 
by inopportunely insisting on his society. He dined at a 
private hotel, and eight o'clock found him at the door of 
Mrs Hammond's house. 

He was shown into an inner drawing-room, which was 
brilliantly lighted, and where he was left alone for a few 
minutes. Then Mrs Hammond appeared, and came 
towards him holding out her hand. 

" I cannot congratulate you on your appearance, Sir 
Laurence," she said, as she seated herself in a low deep 
chair and looked up at him. The look was a peculiar one ; 
intent observation and some anxiety were blended in its 
expression. He had taken a seat at her invitation, and 
was quite grave and self-possessed, while he preserved with 
exactness the manner of a man who was there in obedience 
to a summons, not of his own wish or act, and who was 
waiting to learn the motive which had dictated it. 

Laura Hammond looked handsomer than he had ever 
seen her, as she sat in the lighted room in her deep mourn- 
ing dress, whose sombre hue and rich material toned down 
the sensuous style of her beauty, and lent it that last best 
touch of refinement in which alone it had been wanting. 
Sir Laurence Alsager observed this increased beauty, but 



360 EUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

merely with an artistic sense of its attraction. To him 
Laura Hammond could never be aught but despicable and 
repulsive ; and he was just then in the mood in which a 
man believes that only one woman in the world is really 
beautiful. She had conformed to custom in her dress so 
far as the weeds went, but she did not wear a widow's cap. 
Nothing would have induced her to disfigure herself by 
such a detestable invention ; and though she knew she 
should be talked about, she considered that a minor evil. 
Her fine silky chestnut-hair, preserved from contact with 
the hideous cap, was banded smoothly on her forehead, and 
gathered into an unadorned knot at the back of her head, 
showing the profile and the delicate little ears to perfection. 
More beautiful than ever she undoubtedly was ; but yet, 
as Laurence looked at her with close attention, he noticed 
that she had grown suddenly older in appearance. Even 
supposing all her former light and dashing manner to be 
resumed, the sombre dress to be laid aside, and the brilliant 
toilette in which Laura had been unrivalled among English 
women to have taken its place, a change had come over her. 
A line above the brow, — a horizontal line, not the sharp 
perpendicular mark that intellectual toil sets ; a tighter 
closing of the lips, too seldom closed before ; a little, a very 
little, less elasticity in the muscles which produced and 
banished the ever-flitting smile, — these were faint, but cer- 
tain, indications. 

" I have not been ill, Mrs Hammond," replied Sir Lau- 
rence gravely ; " but I have had a good deal of trouble 
lately, and that does not improve one's looks. But," he 
went on, " you wished to see me ; may I inquire why ? I 
am leaving town shortly ; and — " 

He paused ; his natural courtesy arrested him. He could 
not tell Mrs Hammond so plainly that he was anxious to 
get away from her as soon as possible. She saw it though, 
and she reddened with sudden anger, which in an instant 
she brought under control. 

" Tou are amazingly business-like, Sir Laurence ! The 
influence of your late onerous experiences in the character 
of Gentilhomme Campaynard, no doubt. By the way, how 
do you like it all ? " 



A " TEECEL GENTLE. 361 

" All ? I hardly catch your meaning. Since my father's 
■death I have been, as you suppose, very much occupied, and 
I cannot say I like the details of a transfer of property and 
responsibility much." 

" Ah, but the property itself, I meant, — the title and the 
fortune, the ' county-magnate ' business, and the ward ; 
-above all, the ward." 

She spoke in a playful tone ; but she watched him closely, 
and Sir Laurence saw it. 

" She had heard something about Helen, and she is on a 
false scent," he thought. " Perhaps it is just as well to 
let her deceive herself." 

So he replied, still gravely, still unwarmed by her man- 
ner, which was half caressing and half contemptuous : 

" They are all good things in their way, Mrs Hammond ; 
and if their way be not yet mine, mine will be theirs some 
day, I hope." 

" Ah, then, it's true ! " she exclaimed. " You are really 
going to marry and settle ; you are going to assume the 
semi- sporting, semi-bucolic, but entirely domestic character, 
which is so very charming, and which will suit you so per- 
fectly ; and henceforth the all-conquering Colonel will be 
sought for in vain under so admirable a travesty ! " 

Still he was grave and immovable. Her persiflage had no 
more power to charm, her ridicule to annoy, than her beauty 
had power to please him. It was all silly chatter ; and he 
wondered at himself as he remembered the time when he 
preferred the nonsense, occasionally adulterated by slang 
and invariably spiced with spite, which she had talked then 
and always, to any words of wit or wisdom. She still 
watched him, under cover of her light manner, narrowly. 

" Tou know as well as I do what is the ordinary amount 
of truth in public rumour, Mrs Hammond. But you 
must excuse me for again reminding you that I am here at 
your request, and that you summoned me hither with some 
purpose. It was not to talk of my affairs and prospects, I 
.presume." 

He spoke the last words in a harsh and angry voice in- 
voluntarily. Anger against her, and something very like 
hatred of her, were strong within him, and grew stronger 



362 BUNKING THE GAUNTLET. 

rapidly. He looked at her careless face ; he marked her 
sensuous soignee beauty ; and he remembered the fair woman 
whom he had seen struck down by her merciless hand in 
the dawn of her innocent happiness, in the pride of her hope 
and love. He would make her say her say, and leave her, 
or he would leave her with it unsaid ; he was sorry he had 
come. What could this woman do but harm to any one ; 
to him, and to Tier most of all ? 

" No, Colonel Alsager, — I beg your pardon, Sir Laurence, 
—I cannot always remember how times are changed, you 
see,— it was not. It was for a purpose which you may 
think a little less welcome, and perhaps even more trifling ; 
it was to talk to you — of myself." 

" Of yourself, Mrs Hammond ! What can you have to 
say of yourself that I ought to hear, or you to speak ? " 

" Much," she said vehemently ; and in a moment her 
manner changed. He had a perfectly distinct recollection 
of her on the last two occasions when he and she had 
spoken together, especially on the last, when she openly 
defied him; when she had declared that she still loved him ; 
when she had furnished him with the clue to her conduct 
which he had unravelled for LadyMitford's enlightenment ; 
when she had said, " I will break her heart, and then I will 
spoil her name." 

Had she done so ? had this woman fulfilled her threat ? 
Very nearly ; she had almost broken Georgie's heart, and 
she would certainly ruin her reputation if he — Laurence 
Alsager — did not resolutely withdraw, and deprive her of 
any pretext for slander. And so it had come to this : the 
woman he had undertaken to defend, for whose sake he had 
foregone so much pleasure and neglected so much duty, 
could be saved only by his absence ! He knew that Laura 
was " talked of," and therefore persons unskilled in the 
science of society might suppose that she could not do much 
harm by talking of another woman ; but Alsager was an 
adept, and he knew that a stone will bruise and maim, and 
even kill, if well-aimed and sufficiently heavy, though the 
hand that throws it be ever so much stained with sin. He 
feared — he feared exceedingly for the woman he loved, and 



A " TERCEL GENTLE." 863 

■whom this she-devil hated. He noted the change in 
Laura's manner before she spoke, and he feared still more. 

" I have much to say, and I will say it," she went on 
vehemently ; " and you shall listen to me ! What ! am I 
to have won at last, and at the end of such deception and 
slavery, the reward I have done all and suffered all for, and 
then am I to keep a decorous silence, and see it all made 
waste and worthless ? Don't look at me in that grave, 
polite, criticising way, Laurence, or you will drive me mad! " 

Something of menace and something of appeal in her 
manner, a startling energy in her gesture, and the hoarse 
intensity of her voice, threw Alsager off his guard ; this 
was so totally new to him. He had seen her in many moods, 
but never in one like this. Tenderness, coquetry, a mock 
gust of passion, all the tricks of fence of the most finished 
flirt he had seen her play, and he had found them out — ■ 
perhaps she had never really deceived even Avhen she had 
most completely fascinated him ; biit he had never seen her 
thus, he thought, and he was right. She was in earnest ; 
he was about to understand her fully now. She had risen 
impetuously from her seat, and approached him, and he 
had risen also ; so they stood confronting each other. 
There was nothing artificial in the expressive grace of her 
attitude ; her figure was perfect, and she was graceful 
always — never more so than now, when she was carried 
away into a forgetfulness of her own beauty, which, if it 
had been habitual, would have made Laura Hammond 
irresistible. Her eyes flashed, and her smooth brow red- 
dened ; but her beauty gained by every subtle change of 
expression, as she poured out a torrent of impetuous words. 

" Did you think I had forgotten our last meeting and our 
last parting ? Did you think I had forgotten the words 
you spoke then, and those with which I answered them ? 
Did you think the past was all blotted out, and those three 
horrid years were gone like an ugly dream ; those years 
during which you banished yourself for love of me, — yes, 
Sir Laurence Alsager, for me, — you cannot deny it, you 
can't take that from me, you can't transfer that jewel to her 
cr.-iwn of triumph, — ay, start and stare ; I know it all, you 



364 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

see, — and then came back to torture me by indifference, by 
neglect, by preference of another — and what another ! my 
Grod ! that made it a thousand times worse — before my 
face ! What do you take me for that you think I would 
endure this, and when the time came for speech keep 
silence ! " 

She was trembling violently now ; but as he looked at 
her, with all the amazement he felt in his face, she put a 
strong control on herself and stood quite firmly. 

" For Grod's sake, what do you mean ? " stammered Sir 
Laurence. " What are you talking about ? What is it 
that you must say ? What is it that I have done ? " 

" Tou ask me what I mean ; you — you — did I not tell 
you then — when you pleaded to me for the woman who had 
rivalled me with you — that I loved you ? Did I not tell 
you then, I say, and did you not know it ? " 

" Tou did tell me that you loved me then, Mrs Ham- 
mond, and I did not believe you. You had told me the 
same thing before, you know, many a time, and you married 
Mr Hammond. Tou married him because he was very 
rich,' — perhaps you might have hesitated had he not also 
been old and silly ; but he was, and your calculations have 
succeeded ; — you are rich and free. Once before, when we 
talked upon this subject, I said we would not go into it 
any more. To you it cannot be profitable " (he laid an 
emphasis upon the word), "and to me it is very painful. 
' That time is dead and buried,' and so let it be. I cannot 
conceive why you have revived its memory ; but, whatever 
your purpose, it can have no success dependent on me. I 
have no bitter memory of it now ; indeed, for some time 1 
have had no memory of it at all. I know it is hard for a 
woman to believe that a wound inflicted by her can ever 
heal, and I daresay men show the scars sometimes, and 
flatter the harmless vanity of their ci-devant conquerors. 
But I am not a man of that stamp, Mrs Hammond ; I have 
good healing flesh, I suppose, as the surgeons and the 
nurses say ; at all events, I have no scars to show." 

He made a step in advance, as if to take his hat from a 
small table ; and she saw that he intended to leave her. 

" No," she exclaimed ; " you shall not go ! I am utterly 



resolved to speak with you ; and you must hear me. I will 
be as cold and as calm as you are ; but you must hear me, 
if not for my sake or your own, for Lady Mitford's ! " 

She motioned him to his seat, and smiled — a little mo- 
mentary smile and full of bitterness. He sat down again, 
and she stood by the mantelpiece, on which she laid her 
hand, and for a moment rested her head upon the palm. 
Something forlorn in the attitude caught Alsager's atten- 
tion ; then he knew that she was acting, and acting well. 
Fury, perhaps ferocity, might be natural to Laura Ham- 
mond under certain circumstances ; but forlornness never. 
"When she next spoke it was in a softer tone, and she kept 
her face towards him in profile. It was her best look, as 
he remembered, and as she remembered also ; for though 
she was not acting now in all she said — though she was 
more real throughout the whole of their interview than she 
had ever been before, nothing, except indeed it might have 
been severe bodily pain, could have reduced Laura to 
perfect reality. 

" I believe," she said, " the best way I can make you 
understand why I sent for you, and what I want to say to 
you, is to tell you the truth about those three years." 

" As you please," he answered ; " I cannot conceive how 
their history can concern me, except that portion of it which 
I have witnessed ; and that has concerned, and does con- 
cern me. But I am here at your request, and I will go 
only at your dismissal." 

" "When I married, and you went away," she began, " I 
was not very unhappy at first ; there was novelty and suc- 
cess, and there was luxury, which I love," she said with 
emphatic candour. " Mr Hammond was not a disagreeable 
man, and I never suffered him to get into the habit of 
controlling me. He was inclined to try a little, but I soon 
convinced him it was useless, and, especially at his age, 
would make him uncomfortable. So he left off." Her 
voice hardened now into the clear metallic tone which 
Laurence remembered so well. 

" By degrees, however," she continued, " everything grew 
irksome ; and a horrid weariness and sense of degradation 
stole over me; not because I loved wealth and luxury any 



366 BUNKING THE GAUNTLET. 

less, but because of the price I had to pay for it. And you 
had made it dearer to buy, for you had gone away." 

" Yes," he said, " I had gone away ; and you would have 
liked to have me stay, and be experimented on, and victim- 
ized for your delight, — I can understand that ; but I 
should have fancied, Mrs Hammond, you knew me too well 
to suppose you could have played such a game as that with 
me." 

" I would not have played any game with you," she said 
— not angrily, rather sadly. " How unjust you are ! 
how unjust men always are ! they—" 

He interrupted her. " Pray do not indulge me rath 
that senseless complaint which women who, like you, are 
the bane and the torment of men who loved them with an 
honest, and the utter ruin of men who loved them with a 
dishonest love, make of their victims. I have long ceased 
to be yours, Mrs Hammond ; but I am not unjust. I say 
again, you would have made me ridiculous as readily as you 
had made me wretched. I don't deny it, you see. I am 
much astonished, and rather ashamed, when forced to 
remember it ; but I am not weak enough to deny a weak- 
ness. To be so would argue that it is not entirely cor- 
rected." 

He was provoking her to anger, but not altogether unin- 
tentionally ; his best means of coming at her real purpose 
would be by throwing her off her guard. 

" I say again," she repeated, " you are unjust ; I would 
not have played any such game. I would have become 
used to my position in time ; I would have seen you in the 
world ; I would have seen you gradually forgetting me. It 
would not have been our angry parting, and a dead dull 
blank, — time to feel to the utmost all the horrors of a mar- 
riage without love. No woman, I believe, would sell her- 
self, at least in marriage, which must last, if she could esti- 
mate them aright. And then such a meeting as ours ! Do 
you remember it, Laurence ? " She stole a very affectionate 
look at him here. 

" Tes, I remember it," he said shortly. 

" A horrid interview we had then, — full of sneers and 
bitterness on your side, and not in the least real on mine." 



a "tercel gentle." 367 

" Is this a pleasanter one, Mrs Hammond ? " said Sir 
Laurence, who perceived that her levity was coming up again, 
and desired to suppress it. " I cannot perceive the utility 
of this retrospect." 

'• I daresay not," she answered coolly ; " but I do." 
The pretty air of command was entirely lost on Alsager. 
She saw that it was, and ground her teeth, — a pleasant 
symptom of passion which she never could suppress. " By 
the time we met again," she continued, " I was sick and 
weary — not only of the price I had to pay for the wealth 
I had bought, but of the wealth itself. Of course I never 
changed my opinion of the value of money. I don't mean 
that ; but I did not get as much out of the wealth I had 
purchased as I might have done. I was very much ad- 
mired, and quite the fashion, but somehow I tired of it all ; 
and then — then, Laurence, I found out why. I found out 
that I really had more heart than I believed, and that it was 
in your keeping." 

" Pshaw ! " he said, angrily and impatiently ; " pray don't 
talk like this. Tou are drawing on your imagination very 
largely, and also on my vanity. The latter is quite useless, 
I assure you." 

" Think what you like, say what you will, — I loved you. 
I knew it by the listlessness that was always upon me ; I 
knew it better by the disappearance of that listlessness 
when they said you were coming home ; and I knew it 
best of all when — when do you think, Sir Laurence Alsa- 
ger ? " 

" I really could not presume to guess when you made 
such a discovery, Mrs Hammond." 

" Indeed ! I will tell you, then. I learned it best of all 
when the first pang of jealousy I had ever felt in my life 
seized me. I had often heard your name coupled with that 
of some woman of fashion. I had heard a multitude of 
speculations about your affairs of the heart ; but I never 
feared them — I never believed in them ; I never knew that 
I had so vital an interest in them until your own look, your 
own manner, your own indecision of purpose about the 
visit to Redmoor, betrayed you to me, and told me who was 
my rival." 



368 EUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

" Tour rival ! " said Sir Laurence in astonishment. " Sure- 
ly you did not suppose I bad returned to England to be 
caugbt again in your toils ? " 

" I don't know what I thought ; I don't care. I only 
know that when you and I parted, you loved me, and were 
angry with me, — it was passionate love and passionate 
anger, — and that when you and I met, not only had you 
ceased to be angry, but you were rapidly succumbing to 
the influence of another woman — a Avoman utterly different 
from me ! Not more beautiful, — I deny that ; she has not 
the art of being beautiful ; she has only the material. A 
woman whom I hate ; whom I should have hated and would 
have injured, I believe, if you had never seen her. Tes ; 
and you actually dared to menace me on her account ; you 
presumed to pit yourself against me as her champion. You 
forgot that such championship hardly serves its object, in 
the eyes of the world." 

Sir Laurence uttered an exclamation of disgust ; and was 
about to rise, when she stepped forward close to him, and 
laid her hands lightly upon his breast for an instant. 

" No, no, Laurence," she said ; " bear with me. I did not 
mean it ; not quite that. Can you not understand me ? Ah, 
my God ! how pitiless men are ! While they want to win 
us, where is the end of that toleration ? We may sin as 
we please, provided we do not sin against them and their 
self-love. But when that is over, they cannot judge us 
harshly enough ; they have even less pardon and pity 
for the sins into which they have driven us than for any 
others." 

" Tou are talking utter nonsense, Mrs Hammond," said 
Sir Laurence ; " and nonsense it is painful for me to hear. 
Tour temptations are of your own making, and your sins 
are of your own counselling, not mine. I would have made 
you my wife, but you preferred — and I thank you for the 
choice — another destiny. Am I to blame ? Tou have 
chosen to cherish a distempered fancy which has no founda- 
tion in truth, and am I the ruthless being who has robbed 
you of it ? Tou have chosen to solace the tedium of your 
uncongenial marriage by a proceeding as vile and unprinci- 
pled as any woman ever ventured on, to her eternal shame. 



A " TEKCEL GENTLE." 369 

Harsh words, Mrs Hammond, but true ; and now you en- 
deavour to lend an air of melodrama to a transaction Avhich 
was in reality as common-place as it was coarse. You find 
it hard to put your relation with Sir Charles Mitford on a 
sentimental footing, — he is hardly a subject for sentiment, 
I think ; and you have invented this tragical theory of an 
indirect revenge upon me. Tush ! I gave you credit for 
more tact." 

This was well and boldly said ; for Sir Laurence had but 
one object in view, — to do the best he could for Lady Mit- 
ford in this encounter with her foe. He knew as he spoke, 
as he looked into the unmasked face before him — pale and 
deformed with jarring passions — that the motive was real, 
though secondary ; it had indeed only come to supplement 
the first, which had led Laura to employ her fascinations 
upon Sir Charles ; but it had always been stronger, and had 
latterly completely swallowed up the other. 

" Shall I never make you understand me ? " she said 
passionately ; " will you persist in bringing things that are 
unreasonable to the touchstone of reason ? I don't know, I 
•don't care how absurd what I am saying may sound ; it is 
true, true, Laurence Alsager, — as sure as death is true, or 
any love that ever was more bitter. Tes, it is true : now 
think your worst, and say your worst of me ; still you must 
see that I am far more wretched than she is. What had I 
to endure ? What had she ? I won her husband from her. 
If I did, was he a prize, do you think ? A selfish, sensual, 
brainless fool ; a man without taste, or manners, or mind ; 
a man who is a living contradiction to the theories of race 
and education ; a man of whom she must have sickened in 
a year, if she had ever gained sense enough to find him out. 
She is not very clever, you know, and she might have taken 
longer for the discovery, if the habitual society of men who 
are gentlemen had not enlightened her. But she had a 
more sure and rapid teacher, who brought her consolation 
too." There was a world of malevolent meaning in the tone 
in which she said this. 

" What do you, what can you mean ? " he asked. 

" Ah, you are getting interested now, Sir Laurence, when 
my discourse turns on her. Wait a little, and I will ex- 

24 



370 SUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

plain. I asked you what did she lose ; I need not ask you 
what did I gain ; the one includes the other." 

" He was her husband," said Laurence. 

" Her husband ! " repeated Laura, with intense scorn. 
" Tou have caught the cant of the proprieties' school, have 
you? Her husband! And what were you? My lover, 
Laurence. Ay, you may forget, you may deny it ; but you 
were, the day you landed in England, — -I should have only 
needed opportunity to win you back again. Her husband !" 
(with a bold hard laugh) — " she might have taken mine, and 
welcome ! " 

Sir Laurence looked at her in growing disgust. Lord 
Dollamore was quite right ; there was a strong dash of 
vulgarity about Laura Hammond, and it appeared whenever 
she lost her temper. 

" Yes," she went on, more and more angrily ; " think of 
her, and think of me. She suffered the tortures of jealousy, 
did she ? of lawful legitimate jealousy, for which good 
people would give her pity, if she were not too proud to 
take it. She suffer ! What did I suffer ? I tell you, 
Laurence Alsager, she could not suffer what I suffer ; it is 
not in her, any more than she could love as I love. She 
is a handsome, cold, egotistical woman, who thinks of her 
rights. Her husband belonged to her, and I took him, and 
she didn't like it. She felt it much as she would have felt 
my stealing her pearls or her Dresden china, I daresay ; 
but suffer ! Why, she's what is called a good woman ; and 
if I chose to break with Mitford, he would probably now 
return to her, for he likes her rather ; and she would re- 
ceive his apologies, and all would be right again. Yes, she'd 
stoop to this stupid meanness, because he's her husband, 
you know ; and matrimony is such a remarkably sacred in- 
stitution, that a man may do anything he pleases. And you 
talk to me of a woman like her suffering ! " 

Sir Laurence made no answer. He was thinking how 
truly, from her own debased point of view, Laura Ham- 
mond read the character of the woman she had injured so 
deeply. 

" You don't answer. Tell me, don't you know she would 
be reconciled with Mitford to-morrow, if he asked her ? " 



A " TERCEL GENTLE/' 371 

" I cannot tell you, indeed," he said coldly ; " you had 
better 'break with Mitford,' as you phrase it, and find out." 

" "Will you not at least acknowledge that I had to suffer ? 
The time of my bondage was short, but she deprived 
my freedom of all its value. She has won you, Laurence ; 
and what is it all to me ? I don't believe, in all her well- 
regulated life, she ever experienced such a pang as I felt 
when I saw her indifferent to Mitford's brutal neglect, and 
to my insolence, one morning, because she had just had a 
letter from you ; a commonplace letter enough, Sir Lau- 
rence — she told us all about it — but I can never forget or 
forgive the serenity of her face ; it seemed as if she had 
been removed into a world apart from us all." 

How little she dreamed — how far, in her blind furious 
anger and self-abandonment, she was from dreaming of the 
secret stealthy delight with which the listener heard her 
words ! 

" Tou impute to Lady Mitford your own ideas, your own 
indifference to right, Mrs Hammond ; she is a woman who 
is incapable of wronging her husband, even in thought, 
though that husband be no worthier than Mitford. She 
rules her life by principles, and in her estimate of marriage 
regards the obligation rather than the individual." 

" Indeed ! That's a very pretty sentence, Sir Laurence, 
and you have learned your lesson like a very docile little 
boy. But hadn't you better reserve it for repetition else- 
where ? for really sentiments of such grandeur are quite 
thrown away on me." 

She was exasperated to the highest pitch by his perfect 
coolness, and tears of rage stood in her eyes. He had pre- 
served an imperturbable composure ; neither her passion 
nor her sarcasm moved him. Desperately she caught at 
the one hope that remained. She came towards him sud- 
denly, dropped upon her knees by his side, and hid her face, 
covered with her hands, on his arm, while he sat astonished 
and confused. 

' ; Laurence ! " she sobbed, " listen to me. Do you not 
know that all the wicked things I say are said because I 
am miserable ; because the love of you and the loss of you 
have turned me into something Lhat I dread to think of and 



372 KUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

to look into ? Have some compassion on me ! I wronged 
you, I know ; but can you not forgive me ? Do you think 
the prize I won brought me any peace ? Be merciful to a 
woman's vanity and weakness. Am I the only woman who 
is weak and vain ? Tou did love me once ; you could love 
me now, if you would only put aside your pride, if you 
would only try to be merciful to the errors which I have so 
bitterly repented. Laurence, this woman, who has been 
the cause of all — whose wrongs are upon her own head— 
what can she ever be to ,you? You know she is, accord- 
ing to your own account, too good to be tempted from her 
duty, while I — I am free ; there is no barrier between us 
now — and I love you." 

She raised her drooping head, she let her hands fall, and 
she looked at him. The time had been when such a look 
would have brought Laurence Alsager to her feet ; but now, 
he had said truly, "that time was dead and buried." 

He rose with an air of stern determination. She had 
risen from her knees, and had resumed her chair. She was 
deadly pale ; her eyes were wild and haggard ; and she 
caught her breath with a sort of gasping sob, which threat- 
ened a burst of hysterical passion. Laurence spoke low 
and sadly : 

" When you come to think over what you have just said, 
you will be angry with yourself for having uttered, and with 
me for having heard, such words. I will not dwell upon 
them, nor will I voluntarily remember them. If you had 
never caused me more than the pang which your first faith- 
lessness to ir^self made me suifer, I might indeed have 
pardoned it, for the sake of the old glamour, and made myself 
miserable by marrying a woman whom I could not respect, 
because I had once loved her. But that the woman who 
jilted me for Percy Hammond's rupees, then betrayed 
Hammond for Sir Charles Mitford, and would now discard 
Mitford for me — by the way, I am a much richer man than 
Hammond was ; barring the widowhood, your speculation 
has been defective — should dream, in the wildest paroxysms 
of a woman's unreasonableness, that I could be cajoled, or 
bribed, through my interest in another, to put her in my 
honoured mother's place, is beyond my comprehension." 



373 

She looked at him, still with wild, haggard eyes, and still 
she sobbed, but shed no tears. 

' ; Farewell, Mrs Hammond," said Sir Laurence, as he 
took his hat, and turned towards the door ; " you and I are 
not likely to meet again. I hope the remembrance of this 
interview will induce you to consider whether it might not 
be better for you to endeavour to imitate the woman whom 
you have not only injured, but vainly endeavoured to tra- 
duce."' 

" Curse her ! " hissed Laura, in a tone that was no more 
like a woman's than were her words. " Let her look to it ! 
I will punish you, Laurence Alsager, through her." 

" No, you won't," he said ; " for the first move you make 
in that direction, I will write to Mitfbrd (I shall never be 
without information), and inform him that you did me the 
honour to propose to break with him in my favour." 

" He would not believe you," she said, in a voice hardly 
audible from the intensity of her passion. 

" O yes, he would ; Mitford is not a fool on every point ; 
and rumour says he's jealous, which is likely to quicken his 
intellects. At all events, I advise you to let Lady Mitford 
alone." 

" Let her look to it," said Laura ; " I owe this to her, 
and I will pay it." 

He smiled, bowed, and left the room. She started from 
her chair, and listened, with her hands clasped upon her 
temples, till she heard the half-door shut ; then she knew 
that he was gone — then she knew that her bold game was 
lost — and she felt that she should never see him more, who 
was the only man she had ever loved, even after her own 
cold and shallow fashion. She gave way to no passion now ; 
she smoothed her hair, glanced at the glass, and rang the 
bell. When it was answered, she directed that Mademoiselle 
Marcelline should be sent to her. 

Demure, quiet, and respectful as ever, Mademoiselle 
Marcelline entered the room. 

" Marcelline," said Laura (she addressed her maid by her 
name now), " I am going to my room. Come to me in 
half an hour ; I want to talk to you about something." 

" A letter came for madame this evening," said made- 



374 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

moiselle ; but I took it from the valet de chambre, as I 
thought madame did not care to be disturbed." 

Mrs Hammond opened the letter. It was from her so- 
licitor, and informed her that the final decision of the court, 
on her application for the guardianship of her stepdaughter, 
had been given that day against her. She frowned, then 
threw the letter down, with a short laugh. 

" Everything is against me, I think. However, it is 
rather fortunate for Alice." 

At the same hour on the following evening Sir Laurence 
Alsager was writing his letter to Helen Manningtree from 
Dover. 



CHAPTEE XXX. 



NATURE AND ART. 



Lady Mitfoed's composure had been shaken by her inter- 
view with Sir Laurence Alsager more rudely than by any 
of the events which had succeeded each other with such 
rapidity in the course of the short but troublous time since 
her marriage. She had reckoned upon his friendship to 
support and his society to cheer her, and now they must be 
relinquished. There could be no doubt, no hesitation about 
that ; and she did not doubt or hesitate, but she suffered, 
as such keenly sensitive and highly -principled natures can 
suffer, whose only possible course is to do the right thing, 
and pay, without having counted, the cost. 

All the loneliness, all the dreariness of her lot came on 
her foreboding spirit, as she sat alone in her dressing-room, 
two days after her parting interview with Sir Laurence. 
She had been thinking of the day at Eedmoor when their 
first confidence had been interchanged ; she had been re- 
membering his counsel, and taking herself to task for having 
neglected it, or, at any rate, for not having tried more 
earnestly and more persistently to follow it. 



NATURE AND ART. 375 

" I must have been to blame in some degree," she 
thought ; " I ought to have tried to please him more; but — " 
and then she sighed — " I had been used to please him 
without trying, and it is hard to realize the change ; and 
before one does realize it, it is too late. I wonder if there 
is any case in which it would not be too late from the first ; 
I wonder if any woman in the world ever yet succeeded in 
retaining or recovering the heart of any man when it had 
once in the least strayed from her. I don't grieve for myself 
now, — I cannot ; but I blame myself. I might have tried 
— no doubt I should have failed ; but still I might have 
tried. I might have asserted myself from the moment that 
they met at Hedmoor, and I saw her clasp his hand as she 
did. But what is the use of asserting oneself, of putting one's 
position, one's conventional rights, against the perverted 
strength of a man's will ? No, no ; there is no security 
where the question is one of feeling ; in the insecure hold- 
ing of love we are but tenants-at-will." 

She thought thus mournfully of her own lot, and con- 
demned herself for faults she had not committed ; she 
thought of Alsager, and took herself to task because she 
could not repress or deny the keen and compensating joy 
which the knowledge that he loved her gave ; she thought 
of her husband with infinite compassion, with apprehension, 
and with hopelessness. The downward course had been 
run with awful rapidity by Sir Charles Mitford. Since he 
had discarded the gentle influence of Greorgie, the benignant 
restraint, the touch of higher aspiration, and purer tastes 
had vanished, and he had returned to all the low habits and 
coarse vices of his earlier career. Greorgie knew this 
vaguely, and she experienced all the horror and disgust 
which were natural to such a mind as hers. At first, when 
she recognized in the fullest extent the fact of her husband's 
infatuation with Mrs Hammond, she could not understand 
why he should not be restrained by that passion, as he had 
been by his evanescent love for herself, from coarse and de- 
basing pleasures. But she soon found out, by the light of 
her clear perceptions and the aid of her intuitive refinement 
of mind, how widely different were the sentiments which 
she had ignorantly compared ; and learned that while there 



376 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

is no temporal salvation for a man so powerful as love, there 
is no swifter or surer curse and ruin than an illicit passion. 
"When Greorgie came to understand this fully, her appre- 
hensions concerning her husband reached a height of in- 
tensity which would have been unreasonable, had she not 
possessed the painful knowledge of what his former career 
had been. She had hardly understood it at the time indeed, 
and her father had softened matters down very much, 
partly through the invincible amiability of his own disposi- 
tion, and partly because he believed, in simple sincerity, 
that all " Charley's " misbehaviour had been caused by 
want of money alone ; and that once rich, and holding a 
responsible position, he would not again be assailed by 
temptations to disreputable conduct. Whence it is pre- 
sumable that the good parson knew a great deal more of the 
next world than he knew of this. 

Lady Mitford's dreary reverie was interrupted by the 
entrance of her maid, who handed her a letter from Alsager. 
As she took it in her hand, she saw that it had been sealed 
with the ring which she had given him, and she broke it 
open with mingled joy and fear. The letter was brief, kind, 
and earnest. Sir Laurence told her that he was leaving 
England, and wished, before doing so, to place within her 
reach a source of consolation which he felt she might too 
surely need. Then, in a few words, he told her of his letter 
to Helen Manningtree ; and besought her in any emergency, 
in any unpleasantness, if she were ill, or even if she were 
only lonely, — as he knew she had cultivated no intimacies' 
in her own circle, — to send for Helen. He had not waited 
for Helen's reply ; he knew so well how warm and sincere 
an acquiescence in his request it would convey. He told her 
of the attachment existing between Helen and the curate, 
and said, " Had there been no other reason for my rejecting- 
your advice, I knew she was, at the time of my father's 
death, virtually affianced to Cuthbert Farleigh." 

Lady Mitford paused in her perusal of the letter at this 
point. 

" Cuthbert Farleigh ! " she repeated ; " surely it must be- 
the same — it must be poor papa's old pupil ; how very odd,. 



NATURE AND ART. 377 

if it should be ! If he had ever mentioned me before him at 
Knockholt, he would have remembered me." 

Her thoughts strayed back to her childhood and her old 
home, and she sat absorbed in a reverie. 

" How thoughtful he is for me!" she said to herself softly ; 
" how truly considerate ! I will obey him in this and in every- 
thing. I will make this young lady's acquaintance — not 
just yet, but later, when I am more composed." 

And then she thought how delightful it would be to talk 
with Helen about Laurence ; to hear from her all the parti- 
culars of his life at Knockholt ; to make all those researches 
and studies which have such an ineffable attraction for lov- 
ing hearts. There could be nothing wrong in this ; men and 
angels might scrutinize her feelings towards Laurence Al- 
sager, and find nothing to blame. 

There was little more in the letter, which concluded with 
an expression of the warmest regard. 

Lady Mitford felt happier for the receipt of this parting 
note from Sir Laurence. It seemed to decrease her loneli- 
ness — to surround her with an atmosphere of protection. 
Greorgie had never associated much with women in her 
father's secluded parish. The inhabitants had been chiefly 
of the lower classes ; and since she had emerged from the 
gushing schoolroom period, she had had none of those inti- 
macies which make up so great a part of the happiness of 
young womanhood. Perhaps she had concentrated her 
affections in the object who had proved so unworthy all the 
more obstinately, and had lavished them upon him all the 
more unrestrainedly, because she had none of the lesser 
claimants for them. 

She looked forward now with almost girlish pleasure to 
making Helen's acquaintance and winning her affections, as 
she determined she would try to do ; and she was surprised 
at herself as she felt her spirits rising, and recognized in 
herself more energy and hopefulness than she had felt for a 
long time. 

Time slipped away, weighted though it was with care, 
and brought no change in Sir Charles Mitford's evil life. 
The husband and wife rarely met now ; and when they did, 



378 BUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

their casual association was distressing to Lady Mitford, 
and embarrassing to him. Their wealth, the magnitude and 
style of their establishment, and the routine of life among 
persons in their position, afforded them facilities for a com- 
plete and tacit estrangement, such as the pressure of narrow 
circumstances would have rendered impossible. They went 
their separate ways, and were more strange and distant to 
each other than the merest surface acquaintances. Lady 
Mitford was, as it was natural to suppose she would be, the 
last person to hear particulars of her husband's conduct ; but 
she watched him as closely as her limited opportunities per- 
mitted. For some time she had observed that he seemed 
restless and unhappy, and that the moroseness and discontent, 
which had been early indications of his relapse from his 
improved condition, were trying to the household, and, on 
rare occasions when she had to encounter them, distressing 
to her. He had no air of triumph now ; he had no assured 
complacency of manner ; these were gone, and in their place 
were the symptoms of suffering, of incertitude, of disap- 
pointment. 

" I suppose she is treating him unkindly," Lady Mitford 
thought. " It must be something concerning her which is 
distressing him ; he does not care about anything else. He 
is so infatuated with her now, that I verily believe, when 
he drinks to the frightful excess he sometimes does, it is to 
stupify himself between the time he leaves her and the time 
he sees her again. Poor fellow ! poor Charley ! " 

She pitied him now with her good and generous heart. 
Perhaps the time that she had foreseen was near — the time 
which she had once hoped for, and now dreaded, though 
prepared to meet it with all the dutifulness of her nature — 
the time when the wicked woman who had taken him from 
her, who had laid the fabric of her happiness low, would 
tire of him and discard him ; and he would seek forgiveness 
from the wife he had so cruelly wronged. 

The moodiness and moroseness, the restlessness and irri- 
tability of Sir Charles had been peculiarly noticeable for 
some time after Lady Mitford had received Sir Laurence's 
letter, and they had not failed to receive the imprecations 
of the servants'-hall. Lady Mitford had been aware that 



NATURE AND ART. 379 

much information might have been obtained through that 
fruitful medium, but she would not at any time have deigned 
to have recourse to it ; and would have shrunk from doing 
so with additional distaste just now, as she could not avoid 
perceiving that she was the subject of closer observation 
than usual on the part of the domestics, especially her own 
maid and Mr Banks. 

One day, when Lady Mitford returned from her solitary 
drive, and having alighted from her carriage, was passing 
through the hall, she was encountered by Captain Bligh, 
coming quickly from the library. She saluted him courte- 
ously, and was about to pass on, when he begged to be per- 
mitted to speak with her. She acquiesced, and they went 
upstairs and into the long drawing-room. 

She knew in a moment that he had come to tell her bad 
news, and she nerved herself to bear it, whatever it might 
be, by a strong effort. He waited until she had seated 
herself, and then said : 

" I fear, Lady Mitford, I can hardly escape some share 
of your displeasure, incurred by my having undertaken the 
mission which has brought me here to-day." 

She looked at him, and turned very pale, but she re- 
mained quite silent and still. 

" You look frightened, Lady Mitford. Pray don't fear 
anything. There is much to grieve you, but no cause for 
alarm." 

" Sir Charles — " she stammered. 

" Sir Charles is well ; there is nothing of that sort the 
matter. But I have a painful task to fulfil. Lady Mitford, 
are you aware that Sir Charles has left London ? " 

She fell back in her seat, and deathlike cold crept through 
her. She did not faint, but a momentary sensation like 
fainting passed over her. Her eyes closed, and her hands 
grew cold and damp. It had come, then, the catastrophe ! 
She was deserted ; he had left England with that woman ; 
and it was all over ! She was to be alone, and he was utterly 
ruined ; there was no hope, no rescue for him now ! 

Captain Bligh was not a person adapted to act with dis- 
cretion in a crisis of this kind. He did not understand 
women's ways, as he was accustomed to proclaim. He had 



380 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

a kind heart, however, and it supplied the deficiencies of his 
judgment. He merely handed Lady Mitford a scent-bottle, 
and waited until she had recovered herself. After a few 
moments she sat upright and opened her eyes. 

" That's right ! " said the honest Captain encouragingly ; 
" I knew you would bear it well ; I knew you had such 
pluck. By Jove, I haven't forgotten the ponies ! " 

" Tell me what you came to say, Captain Bligh," said 
Lady Mitford. " I am quite strong now ; " and she looked 
so. 

" Well, the truth is, Lady Mitford, things have gone too 
far, and Sir Charles is conscious of the fact. I would not 
have done such a thing for any one in the world but him. 
He and I have always been good friends, though he has 
done many things I could hardly stand. Ton mustn't mind 
my not being polished, — I don't mean to be rude ; but I 
have such unpleasant things to say, that, by Jove, I can't 
manage to say them pleasantly ! " He floundered very 
much in his speech, and fidgeted distractingly ; but she sat 
quite still and listened to him. At last he blurted out des- 
perately, " The truth is, that she-devil Laura Hammond has 
driven him mad ! She has snubbed him, and tried to throw 
him over, and gone off to Baden without letting him 
know." 

" Without letting him know ! Then they are not gone 
together ? I thank God ! " said Gfeorgie emphatically. 

" Gone together ! No ; she never would be such a fool as 
that, whatever he might be. I beg your pardon, Lady 
Mitford. She has gone, as he believes, with the intention 
of throwing him off entirely, and trying it on with Tcher- 
nigow the Russian, you know ; and Mitford would not stand 
it, and he has gone. He heard something last night which 
exasperated him, and he came to my rooms this morning- 
only a small portmanteau with him — and told me he was 
going. He told me to come down here, and send Banks 
off to-night with his things. I said everything I could 
think of, but it was no use, — he was simply desperate. 
Then, Lady Mitford " — and here Captain Bligh lowered his 
voice, and spoke with great gentleness — " then I asked him 
if he remembered the consequences of this to you." 



NATUEE AND ART. 381 

" To me, Captain Bligh ! What worse consequences can 
come to me than have come already ? " 

" Many, Lady Mitford, and much worse. Tou cannot 
live any longer under the same roof with Sir Charles ; the 
scandal is too open and too great. He will disgrace him- 
self, and make himself ridiculous at Baden, if much more 
serious mischief does not ensue ; and you must keep aloof 
from the scandal." 

" I am as much aloof from it as I can be here, I think, 
Captain Bligh," said poor Greorgie; "and I will not leave 
my husband's house until he bids me. He may find that 
his going to Baden is useless ; if she is resolved to discard 
him, she will do so as resolutely and as effectually there as 
here. No, Captain Bligh ; this is my home, and here I will 
remain until I see the end of this matter. I will not for- 
sake him, as he has forsaken me, at the beginning of it ; I 
will not heap additional disgrace upon him, and give this 
story additional publicity, by leaving his house, unless he 
has told me, through you, to do so." 

" No, no, Lady Mitford," said Bligh ; " he has not done 
that. He begged of me to come to you, and tell you that 
he had gone. He would not try to deceive you, he said ; 
if he could induce her to allow him to remain with her, he 
would, and never return to England. Yes, indeed, — so far 
had his madness driven him : but at all events he would 
never ask you to see him again ; and whatever arrangements 
you might choose to make, he would be quite prepared to 
carry into effect. He said he supposed you would not re- 
main here." 

" He was mistaken," she said, very quietly and sadly ; 
" I will remain here. Tell me what more passed between 
you, Captain Bligh." 

" Indeed, not much, dear Lady Mitford. He was dread- 
fully excited and wretched, and looked fearfully ill, — he had 
been drinking deeply last night, I am sure, — and his 
manner was agitated and incoherent. He talked of his 
persecutions and his miseries, as every man who has the 
best blessings of life at his command and throws them 
away does talk ; and his lamentations about this cursed 



382 BUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

infatuation of his were mixed up with self-reproaches on 
your account, and imprecations on the men who have, 
tabooed him, and especially because he was rejected at the 
Maecenas." 

" Poor Charles ! " said Lady Mitford musingly ; " all the 
enemies he has ever had could have done him little harm, 
had he not doubled in his own person the strength of his 
enemies to injure him. He began ill ; and when he made 
an effort to do well, some gloomy recollection, some haunt- 
ing fear, always seemed to keep him back. There was some 
evil power over him, Captain Bligh, before this woman laid 
her spells upon him — a power which made him moody and 
wretched and reckless. This was a subject upon which it 
was impossible for me to speak to him ; and I accounted 
for it easily enough, and I have no doubt with tolerable 
correctness. Tou know, and I know, that the early years 
of Sir Charles's life were full of dark days and questionable 
associations. He was unfortunate at least as much as 
guilty ; and not the smallest of the misfortunes of such a 
career is the power it gives to miscreants of every kind to 
embitter one's future and tarnish one's fame, to blight the 
hopes and the efforts with which one endeavours to rise 
above the mud-deposit of follies and sins repented and 
abandoned. There has never been a case, I am sure, in 
which a man who had gone extensively wrong, and who then 
tried to go right, and got a good chance of doing it, was not 
pursued and persecuted by harpies of the old brood, whose 
talons perpetually branded him, and whose inexorable pur- 
suit kept him constantly depressed and miserable. Then 
he will be driven to excitement, to dissipation, to anything 
which will enable him to forget the torture ; but this very 
necessity deprives all his efforts of vigour, and renders him 
hopeless of success. I am confident that some such merci- 
less grinding misery lay hidden in Sir Charles's life. I saw 
it very shortly after we came to town ; and I had reason to 
suspect that he met with some annoyance of the same kind 
down at Redmoor. But he never told me, and there is no 
good in our speculating upon any matter of this kind. I 
can hardly consider myself entitled now to inquire into any 



NATURE AND ART. 383 

affair of his. Did he give you any instructions, Captain 
Bligh ? did he give you any address ? " 

" Xo," replied the good-natured Captain, quite saddened 
and distressed to witness her misery, and moved at the 
same time to great simple admiration by her composure and 
firmness, which the Captain denominated " pluck." " He 
did not say many words to me. He told me to come here 
and tell you what I have told you, and he said he would 
write. Let me leave you now, dear Lady Mitford, and let 
me return to-morrow and take your commands." 

" Thank you," she said simply ; and then he left her ; 
and perhaps in the whole course of his chequered existence, 
and among his numerous and varied experiences, he had 
never felt so much pure and deep respect for any woman as 
for the deserted wife to whom he had had to disclose the 
full measure of her sorrow. 

The days passed, and no tidings of Sir Charles Mitford 
came. Greorgie had seen Banks, and had given him some 
directions relative to the things which Sir Charles required 
him to take to Baden, in an unconcerned and dignified 
manner, which had impressed that functionary as much 
as her conduct of the previous day had affected Captain 
Bligh. 

" She's a deal too good for Mitford, and always was, even 
before he took to brandy and that ere Laurer 'Ammond," 
soliloquized Mr Banks ; " and I hope, for my part, he'll 
never come back." 

Mr Banks left town early in the morning of the day 
which succeeded the interview between Lady Mitford and 
Captain Bligh, and Greorgie remained in her own rooms the 
entire day. An agitated restlessness was upon her, a feel- 
ing of suspense and apprehension, which deprived her of the 
power of thinking consecutively, and distracted her sorrow 
by changing its character. She expected to see Captain 
Bligh, and in her confused state of mind she had forgotten 
to say that no other visitors were to be admitted. At 
three in the afternoon, as she was sitting in her boudoir, 
striving, quite ineffectually, to fix her attention on some 
piece of feminine industry, a servant announced, 



384 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

" Miss Gillespie." 

Lady Mitford heard the name with unbounded astonish- 
ment. At first she associated no idea whatever with it • she 
felt certain she had never known any one so designated. 
But before the bearer of the name entered the room, she 
had remembered the handsome young woman whose superb 
singing and sudden disappearance had occasioned so much 
wonder and discussion at Bedmoor. The association of 
ideas was not pleasant ; and it was with a heightened 
colour, and something in her manner different from its cus- 
tomary graceful sweetness, that she rose to receive her un- 
looked-for visitor. 

Miss Gillespie was looking very handsome ; and the 
agitation under which she was evidently labouring had not 
the usual effect of destroying ease and gracefulness. She 
had always been quiet, and to a certain extent ladylike in 
her manners. Even in the Lizzie-Ponsford days she had 
not degenerated into the coarseness which might have been 
supposed to be an inevitable attendant or result of such a 
career. The ease and rapidity with which she had mastered 
the high-comedy style of performance, the finish of her act- 
ing, and the perfect appreciation of the refinement and re- 
pose which mark the demeanour of the true grande dame, 
afforded ample proof of Miss Gillespie's tact and readiness. 
She had needed only the accessories, and now she had pro- 
cured them ; and as she Avalked slowly and gracefully up to 
the spot where Lady Mitford stood to receive her, her rich 
and elegant but studiously-simple dress, her courteous 
gesture of salutation, and her nicely-modulated voice were 
all perfect. 

" I daresay you have forgotten me, Lady Mitford," said 
she, " though you were very kind indeed to me when I ac- 
companied my employers to your house at Eedmoor ; and 
your kindness made my position very different from what it 
had ever been before under similar circumstances." 

" Pray be seated, Miss Gillespie," said Lady Mitford, soft- 
ened by her respectful and graceful manner ; " I am very 
glad to know that you have any pleasant recollections of 
your visit to Eedmoor." 

" But you are at a loss to account for my seeking you 



NATURE AND ART. 385 

here, Lady Mitford, and venturing to call upon you without 
having first asked and obtained your permission." 

Georgie's nature was so truthful that even the little 
t'vtTy-uay conventional matter-of-course falsehoods of so- 
ciety refused to come trippingly from her tongue. She was 
surprised at Miss Gillespie's visit, and she had let it appear 
that she was. 

" If I am at a loss to account for your visit," she said, in 
her own sweet persuasive manner, " do not therefore sup- 
pose that it is not agreeable to me. I am very glad to see 
you, Miss Gillespie ; and I hope it was not any unhappy 
circumstance which obliged you to leave Redinoor so ab- 
ruptly at that time." 

" One of the objects of my visit to you to-day, Lady 
Mitford, is to explain my conduct on that occasion. I am 
sure you will be infinitely surprised to learn that you were 
nearly, though unconsciously, concerned in it." 

" I, Miss Gillespie ! Surely I had not done anything — 
nothing had occurred at Bedmoor — " 

' No, no ; you mistake my meaning, which, indeed, I 
must explain, if you will permit me to do so, by telling you 
a long story. Have I your permission, Lady Mitford ? " 

Georgie's astonishment was increasing. She marked the 
earnest gaze her strange visitor fixed upon her. She saw 
how her face softened and glowed as she looked at her. She 
knew that this young woman had a kindly feeling towards 
her ; and she was so lonely, so deserted, that she felt grate- 
ful for that, though the person who bestowed it upon her 
was only a humble governess. She stretched out her hand 
by a sudden impulse, and Miss Gillespie caught and kissed 
it with intense fervour. 

" You shall stay with me as long as you please, and tell 
me all your story, Miss Gillespie. I have done nothing to 
deserve the interest I see you feel in me ; but I thank you 
for it." 

Her visitor did not immediately reply : she sat looking at 
Georgie's face, more beautiful in its expression of grief and 
courage than when it was at its brightest, as though she 
were learning the features by heart. Lady Mitford blushed 
a little under the scrutiny, and smiled, as she said : 

2.1 



386 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

" You look at me very earnestly, Miss Gillespie. What 
is there in my face to fix your attention ? " 

" There is everything that I once did not believe in, 
while I longed to see it. There is beauty, Lady Mitford — 
•well, I have seen enough of that ; but there is truth and 
gentleness, sweet self-forgetfulness, and an impulse of kind- 
ness to everything that lives and feels and can suffer. The 
first time I saw that face I thought of the common saying 
about the face of an angel ; but I soon ceased to think it 
was like that. Angels are in heaven, where their sinless 
and sorrowless sphere lies. Such women as you are on 
earth, to teach those who, standing far off, see them, to 
hope, and believe, and take comfort, because they exist and 
have their part in the same troubled world with themselves, 
but always bringing the image and the ideal of a better 
nearer, and making it real." 

Her voice trembled, and tears stood in her eyes. Georgie 
wondered more and more. 

" When I have told you my story, Lady Mitford," she 
went on, " you will be able to understand in a degree — you 
never could quite comprehend it — the effect that such a 
woman as you produces upon such a woman as I ; for I 
studied you more closely than you could have suspected 
in that brief time at Redmoor ; and I hold a clue to your 
history, of whose existence you were ignorant." 

" Do not tell me anything that it will pain you to repeat, 
Miss Gillespie," said Georgie, seeing that she hesitated and 
changed colour. 

" In that case I should tell you nothing, Lady Mitford ; 
for there is little in my life that has not been painful. I 
daresay you would find it difficult to realize, if I could put it 
before you in the plainest words ; and I am sure, even if 
you did realize it, you would judge it mercifully — you would 
remember the difficulties and the dangers of such an exist- 
ence, and suffer them to have their weight as against its 
sins and sorrows. Tou know what it is to be motherless, 
Lady Mitford ; but yours was a guarded childhood, hedged 
about with pious care and fatherly love, — they told me all 
about you down at Uedmoor. Mine was a motherless 
childhood ; and my father was a thief, and the companion 



NATURE AND ART. oS7 

of thieves. This is the simple English of the matter. You 
would not understand the refinements and distinctions by 
which the dishonest classes describe their different ranks in 
the army of thieves ; you could not comprehend the scenes 
and the influences among which my childhood was passed ; 
and I will not try to explain them, because they have no 
bearing upon what it concerns you to hear." 

She had rested her arm upon a table beside her chair, 
and supported her head on her hand. 

" My wretched childhood had passed by, and my more 
wretched girlhood had reached its prime, when I was 
brought in contact with Sir Charles Mitford." 

Greorgie recoiled, turned very red, and uttered an exclam- 
ation. 

" I was associated at that time with some men who made 
their livelihood in a number of dishonest ways ; and one of 
them had in his possession a document, by means of which 
he had maintained a hold over Mitford, then a young man 
of small means and very indirect expectations. The man I 
speak of died, and accident placed me in possession of the 
document. It was a forged bill ! " 

Lady Mitford covered her face with her hands ; and as 
Miss Gillespie continued, the slow tears began to force their 
way through the slender fingers. 

" Others knew of the existence of this bill, Lady Mitford, 
and I have no doubt whatever that they traded upon their 
knowledge. Every effort, direct and indirect, was made to 
get the bill out of my possession ; but I resolved to keep 
it, and every effort failed. Perhaps I might have used it 
for my own purposes against Sir Charles some day, if I had 
never seen or known you. It is certain that I should have 
given it to him, and set him free for ever from an appre- 
hension which constantly beset and tortured him, had I not 
known how unworthily he was treating you, how completely 
all the hard lessons of his life of poverty and shifts had 
failed to correct his low instincts and his utter imtrust- 
worthiness. Don't cry, dear Lady Mitford, — your tears 
pain me keenly ; I must draw them forth a little while, and 
then I trust to dry them. 

" I saw Sir Charles when he first visited Mrs Hammond 



OOb RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

at Torquay. By that time I had drifted to land somehow,, 
and I had contrived to get my wandering feet within the 
confines of respectability. I was quiet, even happy, in Mrs 
Hammond's employment, though I soon perceived her to 
be the most worthless of her sex. That, however, troubled 
me little ; and when Sir Charles came to the house and 
recognized me, and I said a few words to him which were 
not pleasant to hear, and I saw that he was in the toils, as- 
he had so often been before, I did not much care either. I 
disliked and despised him, and I liked to think of the hidden 
weapon in my possession, and to picture his amazement if 
he knew that not only was I Lizzie Ponsford, — acquainted 
with all his doings and all his disreputable' associates, — but 
that I actually held in my possession the document for 
which he would have given so large a price, and which 
would have ruined him at any moment. I liked to know 
that my presence made him uncomfortable, and I suf- 
fered him to experience that discomfort to the fullest ex- 
tent. 

'' You are shocked, Lady Mitford ; such feelings are in- 
comprehensible to you but I tell you simply and plainly 
that they were mine, because I am coming to the portion of 
ray story which concerns you. I went to Hedmoor with 
Mrs Hammond, and on the first evening of our visit I saw 
that you were suspicious and uneasy. I saw you, Lady 
Mitford ; I observed you closely, and I loved you ; not so-- 
much as I did afterwards, when every day brought some 
gift, some grace, some beauty of your mind and disposition 
freshly before me ; not so much as I did when your sweet 
gentleness, your kindly courtesy, your unfailing consideration 
filled me with sentiments which I had never known before, 
when for the first time I learned what it was to be cared 
for as an individual. Do you remember the day you 
took me to your dressing-room, Lady Mitford, and lent me 
some of your favourite books, and talked with me of what 
kind of reading I liked, and showed an interest in me, as if 
I had been a lady and one of your most considered guests ? 
JSo, yon do not remember it, but I do. Then I determined 
to use the power I had over him on your behalf. I knew 
it would not avail long ; I knew if even he were rescued 



NATURE AND ART. dbU 

from her. he never could realize your hopes, never could he 
worthy of you ; but at least I could control him for the 
time. I tried and succeeded. I threatened him with ex- 
posure if he did not desist. I cannot tell you exactly the 
course of subsequent events ; I have never been able to 
make that out to my own satisfaction ; "but I have a theory 
which I think is a right one. A few days after I had the 
interview I have mentioned with Sir Charles, a man ap- 
peared who had been mixed up in many of the transactions 
of the time past to which I had been a party. He met me, 
and told me a story which I did not believe, but which 
altered my position completely. He had come down to get 
me away ; and whether he came as Sir Charles's employe or 
on his own account, I have never been certain. I believe 
the latter to be the? more likely. He had two alternatives 
at his command : he might expose me if I refused to leave 
B-edmoor quietly, and destroy all my hopes of attaining re- 
spectability in future, or he might take the bill from me by 
force or fraud, if I yielded to his threats. I did neither ; I 
temporized ; I made an appointment with him for two o'clock 
on the following day, and I left Bedmoor, without clue by 
which I could be tracked, at daybreak. Let who would be 
the author of Mr Effingham's proceeding (he called himself 
Effingham), I had balked their scheme, and I turned my 
back on Bedmoor with one bitter pang of regret mingled 
with my triumph. I should see your face, Lady Mitford, 
no more, and I could no longer interfere to prevent the 
deadly wrong which was being done by your faithless hus- 
band and your false friend. 

" All such regrets were, however, utterly vain. The im- 
minent risk of exposure left me no choice. At least I 
would punish Sir Charles so far : he should never have the 
bill — he should never have the satisfaction of feeling that 
that ghost was laid. So I left the only place in which I 
had ever tasted happiness, and set my face to the hard 
world again. But before I stole away from your house 
that morning, I wrote a line to Colonel Alsager, and told 
him to take up the watch I had been obliged to relinquish. 
You are astonished, Lady Mitford ; and well you may be. I 
3aad never exchanged more than a dozen sentences with 



390 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

Colonel Alsager ; but I knew that tlie interest he felt in 
you was in no way inferior to mine ; while his opportunities 
of exhibiting it were infinitely greater, and so I wrote to 
him." 

" "What did you do, Miss Gillespie, when you left Red- 
moor ? I fear you had very little money. Forgive me if I 
offend you, but I gathered that from something Mrs Ham- 
mond said." 

" Tou are right, Lady Mitford ; and it is like you to 
think of a need which you have never known. I had very 
little money ; but I had a friend who put me in the way of 
earning some — how, I will tell you when I have finished the 
portion of my story in which you are interested." 

The gentle look of forbearance and compassion in 
Greorgie's face seemed to touch Miss Gillespie very deeply. 
Once more she took her hand and kissed it. Then she 
continued : 

" I went to America, and for a long time I heard nothing 
of you, though I longed most ardently to do so. The echoes 
of the great world did not reach me in the distant sphere of 
my toil, and I longed to know how the only person with 
whom I had ever felt true human sympathy was wearing 
through her day. This may seem to you an unnatural and 
overstrained sentiment ; and so it would be in the mind of 
any one who had any natural ties, or who was less desolate 
than I ; but you must be able to comprehend my life before 
you could understand these inconsistencies. Let me leave 
this, then, unexplained, and tell you that I came back to 
England, and that I have heard all that has befallen you 
since I went away. I have never felt anything that has 
happened to myself in my vagabond life so much. Inci- 
dents I heard, but no one could tell me anything of you 
individually, — of how you were bearing your trials, of what 
face you showed the world, which would coldly criticise you 
— a creature as far beyond its comprehension as any angel 
in the heaven far beyond their sphere." 

She spoke with intense feeling, and her fine face glowed 
with the depth of her sympathy and admiration. 

" At last I caught sight of Colonel Alsager." 



NATURE AND ART. 391 

Georgie blushed, but her visitor did not appear to observe 
her emotiou. 

" I knew he could tell me what I thirsted to know, and I 
went to his hotel on the following day, but failed to see 
him ; and when I sent a note, asking him to let me speak 
a few words with him, it was returned. Colonel Alsager 
had left town. I learned that his father was dead, and he, 
of course, a baronet now ; but I heard nothing further — no 
one could tell me if his absence were likely to be prolonged. 
I had the strongest, the most insatiable desire to see you, 
Lady Mitford. I wanted to see the face that I had never 
forgotten, and find it as beautiful, as good as ever." 

G-eorgie smiled sadly " Ah, Miss Gillespie, I have 
suffered much, and am greatly changed." 

" Only for the better," she said eagerly ; " only for the 
better. Every line in your fac'e is lighted up with spiritual 
light now. When I saw it last, the girlish softness had not 
left the features and given the expression fair play." 

Her enthusiasm — her feeling — were so real, and there 
was such a strong dash of the artist in her remarks, that it 
would have been impossible to resent them. Lady Mitford 
once more smiled sadly. 

" I knew there was no chance that I should see you in 
any public place — your deep mourning precluded that pos- 
sibility — and so I resolved to come here and present my- 
self boldly before you. In the ordinary sense of society, 
between you and me there is a gulf fixed ; but I thought 
your gentleness would span it. It has done so. You have 
permitted me to speak to you face to face ; you have grati- 
fied the wish which another might have resented as mere 
insolent curiosity." 

" Why do you speak thus, Miss Gillespie ? Why should 
there be a gulf between you and me ? I am not aware of 
any reason. I do not despise you because you are a 
governess, because you use the talents and the education 
you possess to earn an honourable livelihood. Why do you 
speak thus ? " 

Miss Gillespie looked at her, and an expression of deep 
suffering crossed her face. 



392 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

" I will explain my meaning presently," she said ; " but 
now I have something else to say. Is it true that Sir 
Charles Mitford has followed this woman to Baden ? They 
say so at the clubs, and I heard it this morning. Pardon 
me, and tell me. I don't ask the question for my own 
sake, or out of idle curiosity. I have a serious, a most 
serious meaning." 

" Tes, it is too true," said Lady Mitford. 

" Then listen. He must be brought back : he is only 
gone to mortification and ridicule. I know a great many 
queer people, and I hear a great many strange things ; and 
I heard this to-day : Mrs Hammond is going to marry the 
Russian Prince Tchernigow, a man who is a violent, jealous, 
brutal wretch, — I know all about him, — a man whose 
cruelty and vindictiveness are not to be surpassed ; her 
punishment is in safe hands. Dear Lady Mitford, I imder- 
stand that look. You don't wish her to be punished, I am 
sure — quite sure of that ; but if she marries Tchernigow, 
she must be. But it is not with that we are concerned : it 
is to bring him home — to rescue him from clanger and 
disgrace and ridicule, fqr your sake ; and you can do it — 
you, and you only." 

Greorgie was breathless with astonishment. Miss Grilles- 
pie rose and caught her by both hands. Then she went 
on speaking with great rapidity : 

" Yes, I say you can do it. Write to him to-day — now, 
this very hour — and tell him Lizzie Ponsford has been 
with you ; that she holds the bill which he employed that 
poor wretch Effingham to get for him ; that Effingham 
cheated him from first to last — from the time of the Alba- 
tross till the day he went to the bottom of the sea with the 
Pocahontas. Tell him he shall have it placed in his hands 
on the day he returns to London. Your letter will reach 
him when he has learned the faithlessness of the woman for 
whom he has betrayed you. Do you not think it will touch 
him, written as you will write it, — with the gentleness, the 
pity, the pardon it will convey ? At the moment of his 
greatest exasperation, in the full tide of his bitterness, a 
way of escape from one constant, overhanging, torturing 



NATURE AND AET. 393 

cause of uneasiness will be removed ; and by whose bands ? 
Tours!" 

She paused, breathless in her excitement, and took from 
her bosom a paper, which she laid on the table before Lady 
Mitford, who looked at it pale and trembling. 

'• You will do as I say, dear Lady Mitford — you will do 
it for his sake, and your own, and for mine ? Let me have 
the satisfaction of knowing that I have been able to do this 
service for you — the only service I have ever done any one ; 
the only one, I fear, I have ever wished to do. - ' 

" O no, don't say that," said Lady Mitford. " You 
misjudge yourself ; I am sure you do, dear Miss Gillespie, 
or why should you have felt so much for me, and done me 
such a service ? Do not write hard things against your- 
self. I will do this — it may succeed ; but whether it suc- 
ceeds or not, I shall ever be grateful to you, ever bless you 
for this act ; and you will let me serve you in turn — you 
will tell me your wishes, and let me try to carry them out. 
You said you would tell me how you have been engaged 
since you left Eedmoor." 

" Thank you, dear Lady Mitford," said Miss Gillespie, in 
a low deep tone ; " but you cannot serve me. I told you 
there was a gulf fixed between you, the patrician lady, and 
me. I am an actress, and my stage-name is Constance 
Greenwood." 

Lady Mitford wrote the letter to Sir Charles, as her 
strange visitor had counselled her to do. She suffered 
much in writing it ; she hoped much from its effect. Time 
rolled on, and she knew that Sir Charles must have received 
the letter ; then she counted the days which must elapse 
before the answer could arrive, and, arming herself with 
patience, she waited. 



394 



CHAPTEE XXXI. 



AMONG THE SPRINGS. 



It was the month of September, and the little town of 
Baden was full. It is now the big town of Baden, and is 
still, during its season, filled to overllowiug ; but the 
company is by no means so select, so pleasant, so agreeable 
as it used to be. The vor-eiseiibaJ/n Baden was as superior 
to the present excursionists' resort as was the ante- railway 
Ascot Meeting to what now is merely a succession of 
Derby-days in Bucks. Then, when you posted in from 
Strasburg, or arrived in the eilwagen from deadly-lively 
Carlsruhe, you found Mr Bheinboldt, the landlord of the 
Badischer Hof, attended by the stoutest, the best-tempered r 
and the stupidest even of German porters, coming forward 
to meet you with the pleasantest of greetings. Tou had 
written on beforehand if you were a wise man, and your old 
room was ready — one of that little row of snug dormitories 
set apart for bachelors, and looking on to the trim garden. 
Tou had a wash, with more water than you had met with 
since you left home (they were beginning to understand the 
English mania for soap-and-water at the Badischer Hof even 
so long ago), and you made your toilette and came down to 
the five-o'clock table-dliote, where you found most of the 
people who had been there the previous season, and many 
of their friends whom they had induced to come. Most of 
the people knew each other or of each other, and there was 
a sociability among them which the railway has utterly 
annihilated. Now London sends her bagmen and Paris her 
lorettes ; but in those days, if " our Mr Johnson " got as 
far as Parry by way of Cally or Bolong, he was looked upon 
as an intrepid voyager, while very few Parisian ladies, save 



AMONG THE SPRINGS. 395 

those of the best class, came into the Grand Duke's ter- 
ritory. 

It was hot in England in that September, but it was 
hotter at Baden. With the earliest dawn came thick va- 
pours rolling down from the Black Forest, encompassing the 
little town with a white and misty shroud, which invariably 
presaged a sultry day, and invariably kept its promise. All 
day long the big red-faced sun glared down upon the deni- 
zens of the pleasantest corner of Vanity Fair ; glared in the 
early morning upon the water-drinkers sipping the nauseous 
fluid in the thick and heavy glass tumblers, and tendering 
their kreutzers to the attendant maidens at the Brunnen ; 
glared upon them as they took the prescribed constitutional 
walk, and returned to the hotel to breakfast ; glared upon 
the fevered gamblers, who, with last night's excitement only 
half slept off, with bleared eyes and shaking hands and 
parched throats, took their places round the gaming-table as 
the clock struck noon, and eyed the stolid-faced croupiers 
as intently as though the chances of the game were to 
be gleamed from a perusal of their fishy eyes or pursed 
mouths. The revellers who were starting off for picnics to 
the Black Forest, or excursions to the Favourite or Eber- 
stein-Schloss, glanced up with terror at the scorching red 
ball in the sky, and bade courteous Mr Bheinboldt, the 
landlord of the Badischer Hof, to see that plenty of ice was 
packed with the sparkling Moselle, and to let Karl and 
Fritz take care that an unlimited supply of umbrellas was 
placed in the carriage. The Englishmen, whom M. Bena- 
zet, the proprietor of the gaming-tables, grateful for their 
patronage, had provided with shooting, or who had received 
invitations to the triebjagd of some neighbouring landowner, 
looked with comic wonder, not unmixed with horror, at the 
green jerkins, fantastic game-bags, couteaux de chasse or 
hunting-knives (worn in the belt), and general appearance 
of their foreign friends ; and then when lunch-time arrived, 
and they saw each German eating his own sausage and 
drinking from his own particular flask, which he never 
dreamed of passing, they recollected with dismay the 
luncheons at similar parties in England, the snowy cloth 
laid under the shade of the hedge, the luscious game-pie, 



396 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

the cooling claret-cup, the glancing eyes and natty ankles of 
those who had accompanied the luncheon. Hot ! It was no 
word for it. It was blazing, tearing, drying, baking, scorch- 
ing heat, and it was hotter at Baden than anywhere else. 

So they said at least, and as they were from almost every 
part of the civilized world, they ought to have known. 
There were English people, swells, peers and peeresses, 
bankers and bankeresses, a neat little legal set, — Sir Nisey 
and Lady Prious, Mr Tocsin, Q.C., Mr Serjeant Stentor, 
and some of the junior members of the bar, — a select as- 
sortment of the Stock-Exchange, and some eligible young 
■men from the "West-end government offices. There were 
joyous Russians, whose names all ended in " vitch " and 
" gorod," and were otherwise utterly unpronounceable, who 
spoke all European languages with equal fluency and 
facility, and who put down rouleaux of Napoleons on the 
roulette-table where other people staked thalers or florins. 
There were a few Frenchmen and French ladies ; here was 
an Austrian gross-herzog or grand-duke, there some Prus- 
sian cavalry subalterns who could not play at the table be- 
cause they had spent the half-crown of their daily allowance 
in roast veal, Bairisch beer, and a horrible compound called 
" grogs an rhum," which they drank at night, " after," as 
they said to themselves, " the English fashion." 

It had been hotter than ever during the day, but the day 
was happily past and over, and the moon was streaming on 
the broad gravelled Platz in front of the Convcrsations- 
haus, and the band, stationed in the little oil-lamp-illumined 
kiosk, were rattling away at Strauss's waltzes and Labit- 
skey's galops. The gamblers were already thronging the 
roulette and trente-et-quarante tables ; and of the non- 
gamblers all such as had ladies with them were promenading 
and listening to the music, while the others were seated, 
drinking and smoking. It was a splendid evening ; the 
diners at the late tables-d'hote were wending their way from 
their hotels to the promenade ; the consumers of the Ger- 
man mittagsessen were listening to the band in delicious 
anticipation of the reh-braten and the having -salad and the 
ioh-hier, or the Ahrbleichart, at which another half-hour 
would see them hard at work ; the clamouring for coffee 



AMONG THE SPRINGS. 397 

was incessant, and the head-waiter, Joseph, who was so like 
Bouffe, was almost driven out of his wits by the Babel of 
voices. They chattered, those tall occupants of the little 
wooden round-tables — how they chattered ! They turned 
round and stared at the promenaders, and made their com- 
ments on them after they had passed. They had some- 
thing to say, some remark, either complimentary or dis- 
paraging, to make upon all the ladies. But there was only 
one man who seemed to attract any special attention, and 
that was the Russian Prince Tchernigow. 

A man of middle height, with brown-black hair, a per- 
fectly bloodless complexion, stem deeply sunken eyes, a 
stiff moustache bristling over a determined mouth. A man 
with small hands and feet, and apparently but little muscu- 
lar development, but strong, brave, and vindictive. A man 
whose face Lavater might have studied for months without 
getting beyond the merest rudiments of his science — im- 
passive, unaltering, statuesque. He never played but with 
rouleaux of napoleons — twenty in a rouleau ; and though, 
the space in front of him was shining with gold at one mo- 
ment, or laid bare by the sweeping rake of the croupier, — 
winning or losing, his expression would not change for an 
instant. He had been to Baden for two or three seasons 
running, and was beginning to be looked upon as an habitue ; 
the croupiers acknowledged his taking his seat, intending to 
do battle, by a slight grave bow ; he had broken the bank 
more than once, and was a lion among the visitors, and 
notably amongst the English. Tchernigow's horses and 
carriages, his bold play, his good shooting, the wonderful 
way in which he spoke our language, his love of solitude, 
his taciturnity, his singular physique, were all freely discussed 
at the late tables-d'hote of hotels at which, the prince was not 
staying. His reputation of beau joueur caused him to be fol- 
lowed as soon as he was seen going into the rooms, and his 
play was watched and humbly imitated by scores. He seldom 
attended the balls, and very rarely danced, though he valsed 
to perfection; and all the women in- the room were eager 
for his selection. His appearance on the promenade always 
excited attention, but he never gave the smallest sign of 
having observed it. 



398 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

Among those who looked up as Prince Tchernigow passed 
was Lord Dollamore, who was seated at one of the tables, 
with no companion save his invariable one — his stick. Dol- 
lamore generally came to Baden every year. The place 
amused him ; it was a grand field for the display of the 
worst passions of human nature, — a study which always 
afforded him infinite delight. He never played, but he was 
constantly hovering round the tables ; and there was 
scarcely an incident which happened in the seething crowd, 
scarcely a change which swept across the faces of the lead- 
ing actors, that passed unnoticed by him. He did not 
dance ; he would have been prevented by his lameness from 
indulging in such a pastime, even had his taste impelled 
him to it ; but he was a constant attendant at the balls 
which M. Benazet provided for the amusement of his 
patrons ; and looking on at the actual life before him as he 
might have looked on the mimic life of a theatrical repre- 
sentation, he had innumerable conferences with his stick on 
all he saw and heard, and on the arguments which he de- 
duced therefrom. He immensely enjoyed being seated, as 
he was then, in the calm autumnal moonlit evening, with a 
cup of excellent coffee by his side, a cigar in his mouth, and 
the ever-shifting panorama of human faces passing before 
him. 

" That Tchernigow is really delicious ! " he said to him- 
self — or to his stick — as he looked after the Russian, and 
marked the excitement which he created ; " there's a savage 
insolence about him which is positively refreshing in these 
days of bowiDg and scraping and preposterous politeness. 
How they chatter, and gape, and nudge each other with 
their elbows about him ! and what a supreme indifference 
he affects to it all ! Affects ? Yes, mon prince, it is ac- 
cepted as the real thing by these good people, but we are not 
to be taken in by veneer, nous autres ! It would require a 
very small scratch indeed to pick off the Petersburg-cum- 
Paris polish, and to arrive at the genuine Calmuck substra- 
tum. Only to look at you to tell that Nature's hand- 
writing never lies ; and if ever there were a more delight- 
fully truculent, ruffianly, bloodthirsty savage than yourself, 
mon prince, I am very much out in my ideas. God help the 



AMONG THE SPRINGS. 399 

woman on whom you ever get a legitimate hold ! Ah, that 
reminds me — what has become of the widow ? There is no 
doubt that Tchernigow was badly hit in London. The only 
man received at her house, the only man permitted to as- 
suage her grief, to wipe away those tears which doubtless 
flowed so constantly for poor Percy Hammond ! What an 
audacious little devil it is ! How pluckily she fought that 
business of guardianship to the child ; and how gracefully 
she retired from the contest when she saw that she had no 
chance, and that defeat was inevitable ! She's the cleverest 
woman, in a certain way, that I've ever met with ; and I'd 
take my oath she's playing some long-headed, far-sighted 
game now, and that Tchernigow is the stake. No more 
flirtation and coquetry — for the present — les eaux sont las- 
ses ; the widow is hard up, and means to recowp herself by 
a rich marriage. That's why that infatuated cad Mitford 
was snubbed so severely. I think she comprehends that 
Tchernigow will stand no nonsense, and as he is the parti 
at present in view, his will is law. She can't have given 
up the chase ; but how on earth is she working it ? " 

A smart natty-looking little man in evening-dress, with 
smoothly-brushed hair and elaborately-trimmed whiskers, 
faint pink coral studs, little jean boots with glazed tips, ir- 
reproachable gloves, and a Gibus hat — a little man who 
looked as if he had just stepped out of a bandbox — stopped 
at Lord Dollamore's table, and with a bow, half-deferential, 
half-familiar, glided into the vacant chair. 

"Ah, how do you do, Mr Aldermaston? " said Lord 
Dollamore, looking up, — " how do you do ? and what is the 
latest news in this Inferno ? " 

Every one who knew Mr Aldermaston made a point of 
asking him the news, well knowing that they could apply to 
no better source for the latest gossip and tittle-tattle. Mr 
Aldermaston nominally was private secretary to Lord Water- 
house, the First Commissioner at the Inland, Irrigation 
Office, and he had been selected for that onerous post for his 
distinguished personal appearance and his obsequious toady- 
ism. It was not a situation involving a great deal of work, 
though any one noticing the regularity with which a large 
leather despatch-box, bearing a gilt crown, and " Charles 



400 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

Aldermaston, Esq., P.S., I.I.O.," was deposited for him by 
an official messenger in the hall of the Alfred Club, might 
hare thought otherwise. The inferior portion of the duty- 
was performed by a clerk, and Mr Aldermaston contented 
himself with taking Lord Waterhouse's signature to a few 
papers occasionally, and receiving a select few of the most 
distinguished persons who wished for personal interviews. 
This left him plenty of leisure to pursue bis more amusing 
occupation of purveyor of gossip and inventor and retailer 
of scandal. In these capacities he was without a rival. He 
always knew everything ; and if he did not know it, he in- 
vented it, which in some respects was better, as it enabled 
him to flavour bis anecdotes with a piquancy which was 
perhaps wanting in the original. He found occupation for 
his ears and tongue in a variety of topics ; the heaviest 
subjects were not excluded, the lightest obtained a place in 
his repertoire. The rumour of the approaching change in the 
premiership, while passing through the Aldermaston cruci- 
ble, encountered the report of Mademoiselle de la Norman- 
die's refusal to dance her pas senl before Madame Riviere ; 
the report of Lady Propaganda conversion to Romanism 
did not prevent Mr Aldermaston's giving proper additional 
publicity to the whisper of Miss de Toddler's flight with the 
milkman. 

There were not many people who liked Mr Aldermaston, 
though there were a great many who feared him; but 
Lord Dollamore was among the former class. " He is a 
blctgueur," Dollamore used to say ; and a hlagueur is a de- 
testable beast ; but necessary to society ; and Aldermaston 
is certainly clean. He knows how to behave himself, and 
is in fact an Ananias of polite society. Besides, he amuses 
me, and there are very few people in the world who amuse 
me." 

So Lord Dollamore always spoke to Mr Aldermaston at 
the club, and encouraged him to tell his anecdotes ; and 
when he found him at Baden, he looked upon him as one of 
the resources of the place, — -a purveyor of news infinitely 
fresher, more piquant, and more armising than was to be 
found in the week-old Times or three- days-old Qalignani r 
which he found at Misses Marx's bbrary. 



AMONG THE SPRINGS. 401 

So he again repeated, " And what's the latest news in 
this Inferno, Mr Alderinaston ? " 

" "Well, there's very little news here, my lord, very little 
indeed ; except that young Lord Plaidington is gone — sent 
away this morning." 

" Sent away ? " 

" Yes ; his mother, Lady Macabaw, wouldn't stand it 
any longer. Last night Lord Plaidington took too much 
again, and began throwing the empty champagne-bottles 
out of the window of the Angleterre ; so Lady Macabaw 
sent him off this morning with his tutor, the Rev. Sandford 
Merton, and they've gone to Strasburg, on the way to 
Italy " 

'• Serve him right, the young cub. I went away early 
last night — any heavy play late ? " 

" Yes ; a Frenchman whom no one had ever seen before 
won a hatful at roulette, and some Englishman whom no 
one seemed to know backed him and stood in. They looked 
hke breaking the bank at one time, but they didn't." 

" Was Tchernigow at the tables ? " 

" No ; the Prince did not show up at all, — has not been 
there for the last three nights." 

" So much the worse for Benazet ; but what does it 
mean ? " 

" Well, I've a notion about that that I won't broach to 
any one but your Lordship. I think I've found the clue 
to that story." 

" What story ? what clue ? " 

'• Prince Tchernigow's sudden cessation from play. You 
know what a mania it was with him. It must have been 
something special to make him give it up." 

" And what is the something special? " 

"A woman." 

" Ah ! " said Lord Dollamore, warming at once into in- 
terest ; " malheureux en jeu, heureux en amour, — the con- 
verse of the ordinarily-received motto. Has Mademoiselle 
Peodor arrived from the Graiete ? or who is the siren that 
charms our Prince from the tables ? " 

" Mademoiselle Feodor has not arrived, but some one else> 

26 



402 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

has. A much more dangerous person than Mademoiselle 
Feodor, and with much more lasting hopes in view." 

Lord Dollamore looked keenly at his companion, and 
said, " I begin to find the scent warming ; but I make it a 
rule never to guess. Tell your story, Mr Aldermaston, 
please." 

" "Well, you know, Lord Dollamore, I'm staying at the 
Bussie, and I've made myself so. agreeable to Malmedie, the 
landlord there, by little bits of civility, that he generally 
comes up to my room in the morning and lets me know all 
that is going on. He showed me a letter that he had about 
a week ago, written in French, saying that a lady wanted 
rooms reserved for herself and maid ; that she would not 
dine at the table-dlwte, being an invalid, and coming only 
for the benefit of the air and springs, but should require 
dinner and all her meals served in her own rooms. The 
French of the letter was excellent, but the idea of retire- 
ment looked essentially English. I never knew a French- 
woman, in however bad a state of health, who could resist 
the attractions of society ; so, though I said nothing to 
Malmedie, I guessed at once the lady was English ; and as 
there seemed a mystery, I determined to penetrate it." 

Lord Dollamore smiled, and whispered something to his 
stick ; something of which the French word " chiffonnier " 
and the English word " garbage " were component parts ; 
but Mr Aldermaston did not hear the sentence, and only 
marking the smile, proceeded : 

" They were expected on Wednesday afternoon, and I 
took care to be about. They came in the eilwagen from 
Carlsruhe, — a deuced fine-looking woman, with her face 
hidden in a thick black veil, and a very neat trim little 
French waiting-maid. The servant was French, but the 
boxes were English, — I'd take my oath of that. There was 
a substantial solidity about their make, a certainty about 
their locks and hinges, such as never yet was seen on a 
French box, I'll stake my existence." 

" Tou have wonderful powers of observation, Mr Alder- 
maston," said Dollamore, still grinning. 

" Tour lordship natters me. I have a pair of eyes, and I 



AMONG THE SPRINGS. 403 

think I can use them. I kept them pretty tightly fixed on 
the movements of the new-comers. Dinner was sent up to 
their rooms, but before it went up the lady's-maid went 
out. I was strolling about myself, with nothing to do just 
at that time, so I strolled after her. She went into the 
Angleterre, and in a few minutes came tripping out again. 
She went back to the Russie, and so did I. I had nothing 
1 o do, and sat down in the porch, behind one of those tubs 
with the orange-trees, to smoke a cigar. "While I was 
smoking it, who should come up but Prince Tchernigow ? " 

" Prince Tchernigow ! " cried Lord Dollamore. " Connu ! 
I'm in full cry now, Mr Aldermaston. But continue your 
story." 

" Prince Tchernigow," continued Mr Aldermaston, " and 
no one else. He asked for Madame Poitevin, in which 
name the rooms had been taken, and he was shown upstairs. 
He came the next day twice, twice yesterday ; he was there 
this morning ; and just now, as I came away from the table- 
d'hote, I met him on the steps going in." 

'• Mr Aldermaston, you are im-payable ! " said Dollamore. 
" I must pay a compliment to your perspicacity, even at the 
risk of forestalling the conclusion of your narrative. But 
you have told it so admirably, that no man with a grain of 
sense in his head could avoid seeing that Madame Poitevin 
is Mrs Hammond." 

" Exactly, — I have not a doubt of it," said the little man ; 
" and if so, I think you and I, my lord, know some one 
whose state of mind must be awful." 

" Yes," said Lord Dollamore, rising from his chair ; " I 
see what you mean, and you are doubtless right. Poor 
Percy Hammond's relatives must feel it acutely. Good- 
night, Mr Aldermaston ; " and he bowed and moved off. 

" I'm not going to let that little cad indulge in any 
speculations about the Mitfords," said he to his stick. 
" That woman's far too good to be discussed by such vermin 
as that ; " by which we may judge that Lord Dollamore's 
opinion of Lady Mitford had altered as his acquaintance 
with her had progressed. 

The deductions which Mr Aldermaston had made from 



404 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

this last experiment in espionage were tolerably correct. 
Laura Hammond was in Baden under the name of Madame 
Poitevin, and accompanied by the never-failing Marcelline. 

She had hurried away from London for two reasons. The 
first, and by far the most important, was to perfect the con- 
quest of Tchernigow ; to clinch home that iron band which 
for the last two months she had been fitting round the 
Russian's neck ; to bring him to make the offer of his hand 
at once. The short time passed in London since her hus- 
band's death had been spent in looking her future boldly in 
the face, and calculating within herself how she should 
mould it for the best. Lord Dollamore was right in one of 
his conjectures about her : she had made up her mind that the 
course of her life must henceforth be entirely altered. She 
knew well enough that even the short time she had been 
away from London and its world was sufficient to render 
her name almost forgotten ; and she determined that when 
it was next mentioned it should be in a very different tone 
from that formerly adopted towards it. Respectability — 
that state so often sneered at and ridiculed by her — she 
now held in the highest veneration, and determined to 
attain to. She had her work to do ; to restore herself in 
the world's good opinion, and to make, as soon as decency 
would permit, a good marriage. The last position gained, 
the first would necessarily follow. All she had to do, she 
thought, was to keep herself in seclusion and choose her 
intended victim. 

She thought of Sir Laurence Alsager at once. She had 
yet for him a remnant of what she imagined was love, but 
what was really thwarted passion. Her feelings were 
stronger for him than for any other man ; and he had large 
wealth, and a good old family title, and the good opinion of 
the world. When, after his interview with her, she saw 
the utter futility of her plans so far as he was concerned, 
she was enraged, but by no means defeated. The cast must be 
made in another direction, and at once. Prince Tchernigow 
was in town ; she knew it, for she had had more than one 
note from him during her seclusion in the country, and she 
knew that Tchernigow was hanging on in town on the 
chance of seeing her. This flashed across her the moment 



AMONG THE SPRINGS, 405 

Laurence had quitted her, and her heart gave a great leap. 
That was the man ! He was a prince ; he was three times 
as rich as Alsager, and was known in the best society of 
every capital in Europe. Life with him as his wife would 
not be spent buried two-thirds of the year in a great gaunt 
country-place, where interest in the Sunday-schools and the 
old women and the clergyman's charities were the excite- 
ments ; life witli him would be one round of gaiety, in which 
she would not be a follower, but a leader. He had been 
madly in love with her two years before ; and from what 
she knew of his nature, she believed the passion still re- 
mained there. That could be easily ascertained. She 
would write him a note, bidding him to come and see her. 

Tchernigow came at once. He had not been with Laura 
ten minutes before her sharp eyes had looked into his heart 
and read its secrets so far as she was concerned. He was 
chafing under a latent passion, a thwarted wish. When, 
just at the close of their companionship at Baden two years 
ago, he had ventured to make open protestation of his 
devotion to her, and she had turned on him with great 
dignity and snubbed him mercilessly, he had bowed and left 
her, cool and collected indeed in his manner, but inwardly 
raffing like a volcano. He had never met with similar 
treatment. With him it was a question of throwing the 
handkerchief, to the delight of Nourmahal or whoever might 
be the lucky one towards whom his highness tossed it. The 
ladies of the corps clramatique of the different Parisian 
theatres were wild with delight when they heard that 
Tchernigow had arrived in Paris, and the will of mon 
Cosaque, as he was called by more than one, was supreme 
and indisputable among them. This was quite a new thing. 
Xot merely to have his proffered love rejected, but to be 
soundly rated for having dared to proffer it, was to him 
almost inexplicable. It lashed him to fury. Por the next 
season he kept away from London, determined to avoid the 
siren who held him in her toils, yet despised his suit. Then, 
hearing of her wddowhood and her absence from London, he 
came to England with a half-formed determination in regard 
to her. He saw her, and almost instantaneously the 



406 RUNNING THE GAUNTLBT. 

smouldering fires of his passion were revivified, and blazed 
up more fiercely than ever. 

He had more encouragement now, but even now not very 
much. He was permitted to declare his devotion to her, to 
rave in his odd wild way about her beauty, to kiss her hand 
on his arrival and departure — nothing more. Trust Laura 
Hammond for knowing exactly how to treat a man of 
Tchernigow's temperament. He came daily ; he sat feasting 
his eyes on her beauty, and listening — sometimes in won- 
der, but always in admiration — to her conversation, which 
was now sparkling with wit and fun, now brimming over with 
sentiment and pathos. Day by day he became more and more 
hopelessly entangled by her fascinations, but as yet he had 
breathed no word about marriage ; and to that end, and 
that alone, v,as Laura Hammond leading him on. But 
when Parliament was dissolved, and town rapidly thinning ; 
when Laura's solicitor had written urgently to her, stating 
that " the other side " was pressing for a final settlement of 
affairs — which meant her abdicating her state and taking 
up her lowered position on her lessened income — Tcherni- 
gow called upon her, and while telling her that he was going 
to Baden, seemed to do more than hint that her hopes 
would be fulfilled, if she would consent to meet him there 
so soon as her business was accomplished. 

This was the principal motive which had induced her to 
start for the pretty little Inferno on the border of the Black 
Forest. But the other was scarcely less cogent. The fact 
was, that Laura was wearying rapidly of the attentions of 
Sir Charles Mitford. Her caprice for him was over. He 
had never had the power of amusing her ; and since she 
knew that Laurence Alsager had left England, she saw that 
she could no longer wreak her vengeance on him by punish- 
ing Lady Mitford through the faithlessness of Sir Charles. 
Mitford saw that she was growing weary of him — marked 
it in a thousand different ways, and raged against it. Oc- 
casionally his manner to her would change from what she 
now called maudlin tenderness to savage ferocity • he 
would threaten her vaguely, he would watch her narrowly. 
It required all Laura's natural genius for intrigue, supple- 



AMONG THE SPRINGS. 407 

merited by Madlle Marcelline's adroitness, to prevent his 
knowing of Tchernigow's visits. In his blind infatuation 
he was rapidly forgetting the decencies of life, the con- 
venances of society; he was getting himself more and more 
talked about ; what was worse, he was getting her talked 
about again, just at the time when she wanted to be for- 
gotten by all men — save one. Mitford had followed her 
into the country, and only quitted her on her expressed 
determination never to speak to him again unless he re- 
turned to London at once, and saved her from the gossip of 
the neighbourhood. She knew he would insist on seeing 
her constantly when she returned to town. Hence her 
flight with only one hour's stoppage in London — and under 
a feigned name — to Baden. 

" ' I pray you come at once,' " said Dollamore, three 
days after his conversation with Mr Aldermaston, reading 
to his stick the contents of a dainty little note which he 
had just received ; — " ' I pray you come at once. — Tours 
sincerely, Laura Hammond.' Very much yours sincerely, 
Laura Hammond, I should think. "What the deuce does 
she want with me ? Is she going to drive us three abreast, 
like the horses in the diligence ? and does she think I 
should like to trot along between Mitford and Tchernigow ? 
Not she ! She knows me too well to think anything of 
that sort. But then what on earth does she want with me ? 
' I pray you come at once.' Egad, I must go, I suppose, 
and ask for Madame Poitevin, as she tells me." 

He lounged up to the Hotel de Eussie, asked for Madame 
Poitevin, and was shown into a room where Laura was 
seated with Marcelline reading to her. Dollamore recol- 
lected Marcelline at once ; he had an eye for beauty in 
every class, and had taken not an unfavourable notice of 
the trim little soubrette during his stay at Hedmoor. He 
wondered now what had caused this sudden elevation of her 
social status, and did not ascribe it to any good source. 
But he had little time to wonder about Marcelline, for she 
rose at once, and passing him with a slight bow, left the 
room as Mrs Hammond advanced with outstretched hand. 
She looked splendidly handsome ; her eyes were bright, her 



408 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

cheeks flushed, her step elastic. Dollamore thought he had 
scarcely ever seen her to such advantage. 

" You are surprised at my having sent to you, Lord Dol- 
lamore ? " said she as soon as they were seated. 

" ]STo, indeed, Mrs Hammond ; I'm never surprised at 
anything. A man who has turned forty and suffers himself 
to be surprised is an idiot." 

" Turned forty ! "Well, when you reach that age you 
shall tell me whether there is truth in that axiom. (" Flat- 
tering me ! " said Dollamore to his stick ; " wants to bor- 
row money.") " But at all events you don't know why I 
asked you to come." 

" I have not the remotest idea." 

" How should you have ? Three hours ago I myself had 
no anticipation of the occurrence of circumstances which 
have induced me to ask you to share a confidence." 

" Hallo ! " said Dollamore to his stick ; " I share a con- 
fidence ! She ought to have sent for Aldermaston." But 
he said aloud, " If I can be of any help to you — ■" 

" You can be of the very greatest assistance. You may 
have heard how I have been left by my husband ; how Mr 
Hammond's relatives, by their cruel and secret machina- 
tions, so worked upon him in his enfeebled state as to in- 
duce him to make a most shameful will, by which I was 
robbed of all that ought to have been mine, and left with a 
beggarly income ! " She had not forgotten that will, and 
any recurrence to it made her cheek flame in earnest. 

Dollamore bowed. He ought to have expressed some 
pity or some astonishment ; but he had never during his 
life been guilty of any conventionality. 

" In this strait," she continued, " I have received succour 
from a totally unexpected quarter. In the most generous 
and delicate manner Prince Tchernigow has this day made 
me an offer of his hand." (Dollamore said he was never 
surprised, but if the stick was on the alert it must have 
heard him whistle.) " We are to be married at once ! " 

" Very satisfactory indeed," said Dollamore. " Fancy 
being a princess, with ' vassals and serfs by your side ' ! 
Yery delicious indeed." 



AMONP. TTIK S I ' I ; I N l i S , 400 

" Oil, I'm no happy ! " cried Laura, with that feigned 
ecstasy of joy which she had so often indulged in ; "the 
Prince is so charming! " 

" Is he indeed ? *' said Dollamore. " Yes ; some people 
rc(|uire to be known thoroughly before they're appreciated. 
But what will a friend of ours say to this? I mean Sir 
Charles Mitford." 

" Ah ! " said Laura, who turned pale at the name ; " that 
is exactly the subject in which I require your assistance." 

" Mine ! How can I help you ? Suppose he wore to come 
here—" 

' ; It is that I am dreading. I took every precaution to 
hide my destination. I came here under a feigned name ; 
I have lived in the strictest retirement, having seen no one 
but the Prince since I have been here ; and yet I never 
hear a carriage dash tip to the door of the hotel but I rash 
to the window, and concealing myself behind the curtains, 
look out in the full expectation of seeing him leap into the 
portico. If he were to come now, under present circum- 
stances, what should I do ? — good God, what should I do ?" 

" What should you do ? Tell him to go back again. Tou 
are not his wife, for him to bully and curse and order about. 
You are not bound to give in to his cowardly whims, and 
need not endure his ruffianly insults." 

"You don't know him now; you don't know how fright- 
ful his temper has become to any one who crosses him. No, 
no, no, we shall be married at once, and leave this place ; 
and should he come here afterwards, I trust you to tell him 
nothing more than you can possibly help ; above all, to keep 
silence as to our intended route." 

" That will be easily managed, by your not telling me 
which way you intend going. I'll do what I can to help 
vou, Mrs Hammond ; but I may as well say, that the less I 
am brought into contact with Sir Charles Mitford, the V, ot- 
ter I shall be pleased." 

" At all events you will do as much as I have asked 
vou ? " she said. 

'• I will ; and as that principally consists in holding my 
tongue, I shall have no difficulty in doing it. When are you 
to be married ? " 



410 BUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

" To-morrow morning, at Frankfort, where there are both 
Russian and English embassies ; and whence we start to — " 

" You forget ; I was not to know your route." 

" I bad forgotten," she said with a smile. She seemed 
reassured ; her colour came again, and as she held out her 
hand, she said, " I may rely on you ? " 

" Eigidly to do nothing," he said ; and took her hand, 
and left her. 

" She's a very wonderful woman, and she certainly has 
had a great run of luck," said Dollamore, as he walked back 
to his hotel. " To think of her getting hold of this Cal- 
niuck savage ! By Jove ! rich as he is, she'll try and find 
her way to the bottom of his sack of roubles. Tchernigow 
is wealthy, but his intendant will have to screw up the 
moujiks to the last copeck to provide for madame's splendid 
power of spending. She's evidently completely frightened 
of Mitford now. It must be sheer brutality that has done 
that, for he was no match for her in spirit, or anything 
else." 

As he said this, he arrived at the Badischer Hof, before 
the door of which was standing a dust-covered carriage with 
two steaming horses ; and in the hall Lord Dollamore saw 
a man, whose back was towards him, talking earnestly to 
Mr Alclermaston. The man turned round at the sound of 
footsteps, and then Dollamore saw that it was Sir Charles 
Mitford. 



411 



CHAPTEE XXXII. 



REAPING THE WHIRLWIND. 



Yes ; Sir Charles Mitford had arrived at Baden. He had 
written several times to Mrs Hammond in her country re- 
treat, and, getting no reply, had called at her London house. 
The old charwoman there left in attendance was as vague 
as Mrs Hammond could possibly have wished her to be 
about her mistress's movements. She had been there, Lor' 
bless me, yes, she had been there ; but when was it ? — 
We'nesday week, she thought, but won't be by no means 
certain. It was the day as she had had b'iled rabbit for 
dinner ; she knew that, 'cos she was preparin' the onions 
when there come that thunderin' rat-tat at the door, which 
quite discomposed her and made her 'art jump into her 
mouth. "What had happened then ? Not much — a puttin'' 
a few things together, which the missis and the French- 
woman managed between them. And then she was sent 
out for a cab ; and the cab came, and they all -got into it, 
and the cab went off. Where ? She couldn't say ; least- 
ways, they would not let her hear the direction — told the 
cabman to drive straight on, and they would tell him pre- 
sentlv ; that was all she knew — yes, that was all she knew, 
and all Mitford could get out of her by the closest cross- 
questioning. Laura Hammond had escaped him ; but of 
her destination he was absolutely ignorant. 

How could he hit upon her track ? The old woman — the 
last person who had seen her — was exhausted and pumped 
out. and had told next to nothing. "Was there no one who 
could help him in this strait ? — no one who could make 



412 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

some suggestion as to the best mode of discovering tlio fugi- 
tive ? Tes ! — a sudden brilliant thought struck him— the 
man who had discovered him when, as he thought, he lay so 
closely hid, — the detective, Inspector Stellfox. 

He had given a handsome present to the inspector when 
he came into his kingdom — how long ago it seemed ! — and 
he had seen him several times since on public occasions, — 
at the Opera, at Chiswick Flower-shows, at the Derby, and 
similar popular resorts. He had the inspector's address 
somewhere, — at some police-station down in the City ; and 
he went to his desk, and turned over a heterogeneous col- 
lection of papers, and found it. Then he sent Banks down 
to the station-house ; and that evening Inspector Stellfox 
was shown into Sir Charles's study, and placed by him in 
possession of the facts. 

The inspector went to work in his own special way. It 
was a peculiar job, he said, and not too easy to work out ; 
but he had hopes. He went back to the station-house, and 
communicated as much as he chose to tell to two of his 
best men. Then all three went to work. They found out 
the cabman who had taken Mrs Hammond to the South- 
Eastern Railway ; they found the porter who had taken the 
boxes' off the cab, and the luggage-labeller who had marked 
them ; they found the tick-clerk who had registered them 
" in transit," and whose book showed not merely the num- 
ber of pounds' weight, but the name in which they were 
entered. They were booked for Cologne, — one could not 
in those days register any farther, — and for Cologne Sir 
Charles started immediately. There he picked up the trace. 
Two French ladies had arrived by the Ostend train, and gone 
— not to any of the grand hotels bordering the Rhine, but 
to a second-rate house, yet quiet and thoroughly respectable 
for all that — the Briisseler Hof, kept for the last thirty 
years by Anton Schumacher. Were they recollected there? 
Of course they were. Anton Schumacher's eldest son 
Franz had been rather fetched by the trim appearance of 
the younger lady, and had gone down with them to the boat, 
and seen them on board the Koniginn Victoria, and recom- 
mended them specially to the care of the conducteur, who 
was a great friend of his. "Where did they take tickets 



REAPING THE WHIRLWIND. l-lo 

for ? Why, at his advice, they took them for Cassel, on 
the left hank of the river. They were going, as he under- 
stood, to Baden-Baden, and he had advised them to sleep at 
Barth's — a right clean comfortable hotel in Cassel — and 
then post on to Frankfurt, where they could spend the 
afternoon and the night, and so get on right pleasantly to 
Baden the next day. 

To Baden ! Sir Charles Mitford's heart sunk within him 
as he heard the Avords. Baden ! That was where Laura 
had been so talked about for her desperate carrying on with 
Tchernigow nearly three years ago. And she was gone 
there now, and Tchernigow had disappeared from London ! 
Doubtless they had arranged it all between them, and he 
was thrown overboard and sold. His mind was at once 
made up : he would follow her there or to the end of the 
earth ; what did it matter to him ? He told Banks to pack 
a small travelling valise ; he called at Bligh's on his way to 
the station and gave him certain instructions, and he was 
off. Not a word of farewell to Greorgie ; not a look of kind- 
ness ; not a kiss of love for that poor child lying broad awake 
and listening to his footsteps as he stole through the house 
at early morning ! What could he have said to her ? — he, 
going in search of his paramour, who had thrown him over, 
— what could he have said to the wife whom he had so 
cruelly treated, so recklessly betrayed ? 

So Sir Charles Mitford, after long and tedious days of 
travel, arrived at Baden, as we have seen ; and the first per- 
son he encountered, ere he had scarcely put foot in the 
hall of the Badischer Hof, was Mr Aldermaston. He had 
known him in London, and was perfectly aware of his 
qualification for news. There was no reticence in Sir 
Charles Mitford now ; no coming delicately to the subject ; 
no beating about the bush : all that had vanished long since. 
Besides, if there had been any delicacy remaining, Mr Al- 
dermaston was scarcely the kind of man for whom it would 
have been employed. So Sir Charles said at once, and hur- 
riedly : 

" How do, Aldermaston ? Been here long ? " 

" Ah, Sir Charles, how do you do? Just arrived, I see. 
Yes ; I've been here — 0, three weeks about." 



414 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

" Then can you tell me ? Is Mrs Hammond here ? " 

" There's no such name in the Fremdenblatt — the Gazette 
des Etrangers, you know." His little eyes twinkled so, that 
even Mitford's dull comprehension was aroused. 

" But for all that, she's here. Tell me, for God's sake !" 

" Well, there's a French lady here — says she's French 
that's to say, — called Madame Poitevin, who might be 
Mrs Hammond's twin sister." 

" Ah ! " Mitford gave a long sigh of relief. " I suppose 
she's attracted the usual amount of attention among all the 
people here, eh ? " 

" She would have, doubtless, had she ever courted it. But 
the truth is, she has never left her hotel." 

" Never left her hotel ! " echoed Mitford, obviously de- 
lighted. " "Which is her hotel ? where is she staying ? " 

" At the Bussie, lower down the town." 

" Here under a feigned name, and never leaving her rooms, 
— that's strange," said Mitford. 

" Yes ; must be dull for her," said little Aldermaston, 
looking up to see the eifect his words had on his companion; 
" lives in strict seclusion." 

" Does she indeed ? Poor girl ! poor Laura ! " 

" Yes, — only one person permitted to see her ; only one 
who is allowed to mingle his tears with hers." 

" One person ! and who is that ? " 

" A friend of hers, — Prince Tchernigow." 

" Damnation ! " screamed Mitford ; " is he here ? That 
cursed Prussian with his sallow face has always been hanging 
about her ; and is he here now ? " 

" O yes, he's here now ; has been here for the last month, 
and has seen her twice every day since she arrived. I hap- 
pen to know that," said Mr Aldermaston, "from private 
sources of information. 

" He has, has he ? Curse him ! " said Mitford, white with 
rage. 

" O yes, he has ; and curse him if you like to me," said 
Mr Aldermaston. " He's no friend of mine ; and if he were, 
I don't know that I've any right to object because a gentle- 
man curses him. But I don't think I'd curse him too 
strongly to Mrs Hammond when you see her." 



REAPING THE WHIRLWIND. 415 

" Why not ? " 

" "Well, simply because he's going to be married to her 
to-morrow morning." 

" To be married to her ! You lie, sir ! — you lie ! " 

" I say, look here, Mr — Sir Charles Mitford ; there is a 
point which must not be passed ; — thus far shalt thou go, 
you know, and that sort of thing ; — and you must not tell 
a gentleman he lies — 'pon my soul you mustn't ! " 

" I beg your pardon ; I scarcely know what I'm saying. 
To be married to-morrow morning ! — to be married ! " 

" O yes ; it's all right ; it's not what you said, you 
know, but as true as possible. I know it for a fact, be- 
cause I was at the post-office just now, and I saw letters 
addressed to the Bussian ambassador, and to Mr Koch, our 
consul at Erankfurt ; and Malmedie told me that the 
prince's man has been over here to order a carriage and 
relays for the morning." 

" What did you say the name was under which she was 
passing ? " 

" Madame Poitevin. But why ? " 

" Nothing — no matter ; now the Hotel de Eussie ! — all 
right ; " and he started off up the street. 

" O'est lid ! mon Dieu, madame ! c'est lui ! " That was all 
Mademoiselle Marcelline had time to utter as she opened 
the door of Mrs Hammond's rooms to a hasty knock, and a 
tall figure strode past her. Mademoiselle Marcelline, even 
in the fading evening light, recognized the well-known form 
of Sir Charles Mitford ; but her exclamation caused Mrs 
Hammond to think it was Prince Tchernigow of whom she 
spoke, and to impute Marcelline's evident terror to the fact 
that she had not then put the finishing touches to her 
toilette or her coiffure. 

When she saw who was her visitor, she made up her 
mind instantaneously to the line of conduct to be pursued, 
and said : 

" May I ask the meaning, Sir Charles Mitford, of this 
strange intrusion into a lady's private rooms ? " 

He stopped still, and winced tinder her cold words as 



410 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



though cut by a whip. When he regained his voice, he 
said : 

" Laura ! Laura ! what does this mean ? " 

" That is what I call upon you to explain. Tou come 
unannounced into my rooms, and then ask me what it 
means. You have been dining, Sir Charles Mitford ! " 

"Ah, I know what you're up to, then; but you're not 
right — I'll swear you're not right. Not one drop of any- 
thing have I had for God knows how many hours. But 
I'm faint, weary, and heart-broken. Tell me, tell me, you 
heartless devil, is this true that I've heard ? " He altern- 
ated from maudlin sentimentality to fierce rage, and it 
was difficult to say under which aspect he was most detest- 
able." 

" Let go my hand," said she, trying to snatch her wrist 
from his clutch ; " let go my hand, or I'll call for assistance ! 
How can I tell whether what you've heard is true or not, 
when you've not had sense enough to tell me what it is ? '' 

She spoke in a deadly cold metallic voice ; and what she 
said roused him to a pitch of fury. Ever since she had first- 
discovered that he occasionally resorted to the brandy-bottle, 
she had taunted him with covert allusions to his drinking, 
well aware that nothing rendered him so savage. 

" Curse you ! " he said, " that's your old taunt. Did 
you not hear me say that nothing had passed my lips for 
hours ? Now, answer me one question, or rather first hear 
me speak. I know all." 

" Do you ? " said she with a sneer ; " then you are a 
cleverer man than ever I imagined you to be ! " 

" Prince Tchernigow is in Baden." 

tf Aud what of that ? " 

" He visits you daily — twice a day." 

" And what of that ? Why should he not ? What is 
that to you ?" 

"Oh, Laura! — Oh, my darling Laura! What is it to 
me, she asks ? I, who worship her shadow, who would put 
my neck down for her to tread upon ! — Then he does visit 
you ? " 

" He does visit me. Does that answer content you ? 



ULIAl'ING THE WHIRLWIND. 417 

You deny that you have been drinking, Sir Charles Mitford, 
and vet you go on with this senseless rodomontade! " 

'• Then let him look out for himself, Laura Hammond ! — ■ 
that's all 1 have to say ; — let him look out for himself." 

'■ He is perfectly able to do that, if there were occasion. 
But there is no occasion now ! " She took her cue from 
Dollamore's hint. " I'm not your wife, Sir Charles Mit- 
ford, for you to bully and threaten. You have no hold over 
me. And if you had, I am not a puny white-faced snivel- 
ling school-girl, to be put down by big words and black 
looks ! " 

" You are not my wife ! " he repeated. " No, God 
knows you speak truth in that, at all events ! You are not 
my wife." 

His voice fell, and the tone in which he uttered these 
words was very low. Did a thought come over him of the 
" white-faced snivelling school-girl " who was his wife, and 
whom he had quitted without one word of adieu ? Did the 
w-hite face rise up in judgment before him then, as it would 
rise up in judgment on a certain graud day? He passed 
his hand across his eyes and sat silent. 

" No, I am not your wife," she contiuued, " thank Cod ! 
I never would have been your wife. And now listen, for 
this is the last time you and I will ever be alone together ; 
yes — I swear it — the last time ! What we have been to 
each other — the nature of the tie between us — you know 
as well as I. But what prompted me to permit the estab- 
lishment of such a tie, you do not know, and so I will tell 
you. Revenge, Sir Charles Mitford, revenge ! — that was 
the sole spur that urged me on to allow my name to be 
coupled with yours — to allow you to think that you had a 
hold over me, body and soul. You imagined I cared for 
you ! That poor piece of propriety in England was jealous 
of me ! — jealous of my having robbed her of her pet-lamb, 
her innocent Southdown ! I cared for you then as much 
as I care for you now — no, I wrong you, I cared for you a 
little more then, just a little more, because you were useful 
to me. Now - my need for such a tool is ended, and — I cast 
you off!" 

She stood up as she said these words, and made a motion 

27 



418 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

with her hand, corresponding to the speech, as though 
throwing him away. He looked at her in astonishment — 
then his face darkened, and he said : 

" Do you dare to tell me this ? " 

" I dare anything," she replied, " as you might have 
learnt ere this. Do you recollect the night in the fir- 
plantation, when your friend Captain Bligh came out in 
search of you, and we stood together within an arm's length 
of him ? What did I dare then ? " 

" Not so much as you dare now, if you did but know ! " 
said Mitford. " Tou knew then that, had the worst come 
to the worst, you had a man at your feet who was prepared 
to brave all for you ; who would have scorned the world 
and all that the world could say ; who would have taken you 
far away out of the chance of its venom and the breath of 
its scandal, and devoted his life to securing your happiness, 
l^our reputation was even then beginning to be tainted ; 
your name had even then been buzzed about, and you 
would have gained — ay, gained — rather than lost by the 
fortunate accident which would have made one man your 
slave for ever ! " 

" I had no i£ea you had such a talent for eloquence," 
said she calmly. " Even in your maddest access of passion 
■ — for you are, I suppose, the ' one man ' who was prepared 
to do such mighty things — you never warmed up to say so 
many sensible words consecutively ! But suppose you are 
arguing on wrong premises ? Suppose there is a man who 
is prepared to do all that that hypothetical ' one man ' would 
have dared ? Prepared — ay, and able — to do more ! More, 
for that ' one man ' was married, and could only have placed 
me virtuously in the eyes of the world after long and tedious 
legal ceremonies. Suppose that there is now a man able 
and willing — nay more, dying — to make me his wife, what 
then ? " 

" Then," said Sir Charles, " I go back to what I said be- 
fore — let him look to himself — let him look to himself ! " 

" He is perfectly ready to do so, Sir Charles Mitford," 
said a low deep voice. 

Both turned, and both saw Prince Tchernigow standing in 



REAPING THE WHIRLWIND. 419 

the doorway. Laura gave a great start, and rusted to his 
side. He put his arm calmly round her, and said : 

" Do not disturb yourself, Laura ; there is no occasion 
for fright." 

" Ah ! " said Mitford, with a deep inhalation of his breath, 
" I have found you at" last, have I ? Tou are here, Prince 
Tchernigow ! So much the better ! Let me tell you, sir, 
that—" 

" Even Sir Charles Mitford will recollect," said Tcherni- 
gow, " that one chooses one's language in the presence of 
ladies ! " Then, in a lower tone, " I shall be at the rooms 
in half an hour." 

Mitford nodded sulkily and took up his hat. Then, with 
a low bow to Mrs Hammond, he left the room. 

An hour had passed, and the space in front of the Kur- 
saal was thronged as usual. At a table by himself sat Sir 
Charles Mitford, drinking brandy-and-water, and ever and 
anon casting eager glances round him. His eyes were 
bloodshot, his hand shook as he conveyed the glass to his 
lips, and his whole face was puckered and livid. The 
aspect of his face brightened as he saw Prince Tchernigow 
approaching him. Tchernigow was alone, and was making 
his way with the utmost deliberation to the table at which 
he saw Mitford seated. He came up, took off his hat with 
a grave bow, and remained standing. Mitford swallowed 
what remained of his drink, and stood up beside him. 

" Tou were waiting for me, M. Mitford ? " said Tcher- 
nigow. " I am sorry to have detained you ; but it was 
unavoidable. Tou used words just now — in a moment 
of anger doubtless — which you are already probably sorry 
for." 

" They were words which I used intentionally and with 
deliberation," said Mitford. " I spoke of some man — then 
to me unnamed — who had come between me and Mrs Ham- 
mond — " 

" I scarcely understand the meaning of the phrase ' come 
between,' M. Mitford. It is doubtless my ignorance of 
your language to which I must ascribe it. But how could 



420 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

any one ' come between ' a married man and a widow — 
granting, of course, that the married man is a man of 
honour ? " 

Mitford ground his teeth, but was silent. 

" And supposing always," continued Tchernigow, " that 
there was some one sufficiently interested in the widow to 
object to any ' coming between ' ? — some one who bad pro- 
posed himself in marriage to her, and who intended to make 
her his wife '? " 

The truth flashed across Mitford in an instant. He was 
beaten on all sides ; but there was yet a chance of revenge. 

" And suppose there were such a fool," he said, — " which 
I very much doubt, — the words I used I would use again, 
and if need were, I would cram them down his throat ! " 

"_E7» hi en, M. Mitford!" said Tchernigow, changing his 
language, but ever keeping his quiet tone, — " eh hien ! M. 
Jlitford, decidement volts etes un Jdclie ! " 

A crash, a gathering of a little crowd, and the waiter — 
who was so like BoinTe — raised Prince Tchernigow from the 
ground, with a little blood oozing from a spot beneath his 
temple. " He had stumbled over a chair," he said ; " but 
it was nothing." 

In deep consultation with his stick, Lord Dollamore was 
lounging round the outer ring at the roulette-table, when 
Sir Charles Mitford, with a flushed face and dishevelled 
hair, with rumpled wristbands and shirt-collar awry, made 
his way to him, and begged for a few minutes' conversation 
apart. 

Shrugging his shoulders, and obviously unwilling, Dolla- 
more stepped aside with him into an embrasure of the 
window, and then Mitford said : 

" I am in a mess, and I want your help." 

" In what way? " 

" I have had a row with Tchernigow — you can guess 
about what ; he insulted me, and I struck him. He'll have 
me out of course, and I want you to act for me." 

Lord Dollamore paused for an instant, and took the stick's 
advice. Then he said : 



i;i:AriNG the wiina/WJND. 421 

Look here, Sir diaries Mitford: in the least offensive 
way possible, I want to tell you that I can't do this." 

'• Yon refuse uie ? 

" I do. We were acquaintances years ago, when you 
were quite a boy ; and when you came to your title you 
renewed the acquaintance. I did not object then ; and had 
things continued as they were then, I would willingly have 
stood bv you now But they arc not as they were then ; 
they are entirely changed, and all for the worse. You have 
been going to the bad rapidly for the last twelve months ; 
and, in short, have compromised yourself in a manner which 
renders it impossible for me to be mixed up in any affair of 
yours." 

" I understand you perfectly, Lord Dollamore," said 
Mitford, in a voice hoarse with rage, u The next request I 
make to you — and it shall be very shortly too — will be that 
you will stand not by me, hut before me ! " 

" In that ease," said Dollamore, with a bow, — " in that 
case, Sir Charles Mitford, you will not have to complain of 
a refusal on my part." 

Mitford said nothing, but he was cut to the quick. He 
had noticed — he could not, even with his blunted feelings 
and defiant temper, avoid noticing — that men's manners 
towards him had lately much changed ; that acquaintances 
plunged up by-streets as they saw r him coming, or buried 
themselves in the sheets of newspapers when he entered the 
club-room ; but he had never been directly insulted before. 
He w : ould revenge himself on Dollamore before he left 
Baden ; meanwhile there w r as business on hand, and who 
should he ask to be his second ? Mr Aldermaston, of course ; 
and he sought him at once. Mr Aldermaston was only too 
delighted. To be second to a baronet in a duel with a 
prince, and then to have the story to tell afterwards, par- 
ticularly if one of them killed the other — he didn't much 
care which — would set him up for life. Mr Aldermaston 
agreed at once, and was put in communication with Prince 
Tchernigow's friend ; and the meeting was arranged for 
sunrise in the Black Forest, just above the entrance to the 
Murgthal. 



422 KUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

Prince Tehernigow called on Laura late in the afternoon 
on which these preliminaries were arranged. It is needless 
to say that he did not hint at them to her ; indeed such 
care had he taken, that Laura had no idea Sir Charles Mit- 
ford had met the Prince since their first interview in Baden, 
though probably Mademoiselle Marcelline might have been 
better informed. But Tehernigow said on reflection it ap- 
peared to him better that she should go to Prankfurt that 
evening, — it would put a stop to any chance of talk, he 
said, and he would join her there at the Eomischer Kaiser 
the next morning. Laura agreed, as she would have agreed 
to anything he might have proposed — so happy was she 
just then ; and while the visitors were engaged at the late 
tahle-d'hote, a carriage drew up at the side-door of the Hotel 
de Kussie, and Mrs Hammond and Mademoiselle Marcelline 
started for Prankfurt. 

# # * # * 

Lord Dollamore was in the habit of breakfasting late and 
substantially. The tables were generally laid for the first 
talle-d'hote before the easy-going Englishman came lounging 
into the salle-a-manger about ten o'clock, and sat down to 
his hifteclc mix pommes and his half-bottle of Leoville. He 
was not a minute earlier than usual on the morning after 
he had refused to act for Mitford, though he felt certain 
the meeting had taken place. But he thought very little 
of it ; he had seen so many duels amongst foreigners which 
never came to anything beyond an interchange of pistol- 
shots, or which were put an end to after the drawing of 
first blood by a sabre-scratch. It was not until the door 
was flung open, and Mr Aldermaston, with his face ashy 
pale, with his travelling-clothes on and his courier's bag 
slung round him, rushed into the room, that Lord Dolla- 
more felt that something really serious had happened, and 
said, " Good God, Aldermaston ! what has gone wrong ? 
Speak, man ! " 

" The worst ! " said Aldermaston, whose voice had lost 
its crisp little society -tone, and who spoke in a hoarse low 
whisper, — " the worst ! Mitford's hit ! " 

"Killed?" 

" No, he's alive still ; was at least when I left. We got 



REAPING THE WHIRLWIND. 423 

him into a woodcutter's hut close at hand, and there's a 
German doctor with him ; but, from all I can make out, 
there's no hope. I must be off over the frontier, or I shall 
get in a mess myself. Send me a line to the Grand La- 
boureur at Antwerp, and let me know all, will you ? Good- 
bye." 

The scene which he had witnessed seemed to have had 
the effect of causing Aldermaston to age visibly. His 
whiskers were lank, his hair dishevelled, the hand which 
clasped Dollamore's was cold and clammy ; and as he hurried 
from the room it would have been difficult to recognize in 
him the usual bright chirpy little news-purveyor. 

As soon as he was gone Lord Dollamore ordered a car- 
riage to be got ready, and sent round to the Hotel d'Angle- 
terre to Mr Keene, the eminent London surgeon, who had 
arrived two days before, and who, on hearing what had 
happened, at once consented to accompany Dollamore to 
where the wounded man was lying. As they proceeded in 
the carriage, they exchanged very few remarks. Mr Keene 
whiled away the time by the perusal of the new number of 
the Lancet, which had reached him by that morning's post, 
and which contained some delightfully-interesting descrip- 
tions of difficult operations ; and Dollamore was immersed 
in reflections suggested by the nature of the errand on 
which he was then journeying. He had always had a poor 
opinion of life in general ; and what he had witnessed lately 
had not tended to raise it. His prophecies regarding Mit- 
ford had been more speedily and more entirely fulfilled than 
he had expected. Mitford had gone to the bad utterly and 
speedily ; and Lady Mitford had had to run the gauntlet in 
the fullest acceptation of the phrase, — had afforded a topic 
for the blasting tongues of all the scandal-mongers in 
London, from no fault of her own, poor child, but from the 
baseness and brutality of her husband. 

These thoughts occupied him till the carriage arrived at a 
point beyond which it was impossible for it to proceed further. 
The man who had driven Mitford and Aldermaston over in 
the morning, and who had accompanied Dollamore's carriage 
as guide to the spot, preceded Lord Dollamore and Mr 
Keene over rough ruts and among intertwining trees, until 



424 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

at length they reached the hut. Dollamore pushed the 
door open and looked in, and saw a figure half-dressed, and 
with the front of its shirt soaked with blood, lying on a heap 
of straw in one corner of the wretched hovel ; a peasant 
woman standing in the other corner, with two children 
huddled round her knees ; and by the prostrate figure 
knelt a placid-looking man in black clothes, — a Grermau 
doctor. He held up his hand in warning, as the door 
creaked ; but Mitford's eyes, turned that way, had fallen on 
Dollamore, and he tried to beckon him to approach. Dol- 
lamore entered, and knelt down beside him. Mitford lips 
were moving rapidly ; but Dollamore could distinguish not 
a word. The dying man evidently comprehended this. 
With the last remnant of strength he raised himself until 
his mouth touched Dollamore's ear, and whispered : 
" Greorgie — forgive — " and fell back dead. 



425 



CHAPTEB XXXIII. 



LAST WORDS. 



The equipage and the establishment, the diamonds and the 
dress, of the Princess Tehernigow, furnished the gay inhabit- 
ants of the gayest and most gossiping city in the world 
with a subject for almost inexhaustible discussion. There 
was no sameness about them, but an ever-varying change ; 
so that cm'iosity was never sated, and the last select few 
who had met the Princess, and told their story of her mag- 
nificence, had materials afforded them for a version of the 
princely splendours which differed materially from the ver- 
sion given by the select few of the immediately preceding 
occasion. With the proverbial impenetrability of the 
French to English social facts and customs, the Parisian 
ieau monde could not be made to understand that there was 
" anything against " the Princess. They knew and cared 
nothing about the date at which the former husband of that 
fortunate lady had departed this life, and that at which he 
had been replaced by the Prince. Many good-natured and 
strictly moral English people endeavoured to instruct the 
Parisian mind on this point, and to make it understand 
that the Princess would have some difficulty with "society" 
in her own country. But these idees insulaires had no 
success. 

Tehernigow had been popular in Paris before he had 
gratified it by bringing a new princess to sparkle and 
glitter, by her beauty and her splendour, in the Bois, at the 
Opera, at the balls, and at the Court. Paris admired the 
Calinuck; first because lie was so immensrlv rich because 



426 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

there was nothing in the place, which contains everything 
in the world worth having, that he could not buy ; and 
secondly because he was odd, so bizarre ; because his cha- 
racter was as much out of the common as his wealth, and 
his eccentricities afforded them an increasing source of re- 
mark and speculation. He was the most polished Russian 
that had ever appeared in Parisian society — the most widely 
removed from the train-oil-drinking and no-shirt-wearing 
tradition of the Muscovites. 

And the Princess ? She had not been by any means un- 
known to fame in Paris. She had visited that city during 
her first bridal tour, and she had had a great success. The 
freshness and perfection of her beauty, which owed nothing 
to artificial means, but could bear any kind or degree of 
light ; the piquancy of her manner, her first-rate seat on 
horseback, her dancing, — all these things had captivated the 
Parisians. Then, was she not so interesting, this beautiful 
little English lady, whose husband was so far from young ? 
It was so charming to see them together, because one knew 
that in England marriages of reason had no place ; and this 
fair creature must have reposed her affections in the feeble 
elderly gentleman, to whom she was so delightfully devoted, 
and who was so proud of her. She had had a train of ad- 
mirers then, naturally ; but it was early days, and there 
was nothing very prononce. 

Mrs Hammond had been in Paris again and again after 
that first successful appearance ; and if her devotion to the 
feeble elderly gentleman had been less conspicuous, her 
beauty and her vivacity had been more so. Of course she 
was " talked about ; " but that mysterious and terrible word 
has one signification and effect in London, and quite another 
in Paris ; and Mrs Hammond's reign was undimmed. 

When the Prince and Princess Tchernigow made their 
appearance on the scene in their attractive character of 
bride and bridegroom, considerable curiosity had been ex- 
cited about them, quite apart from the legitimate interest 
to which they were entitled on their separate merits, and to 
which their union added vigour and intensity. The Baden 
story had of course got about, with more or less correctness 
of time, place, and circumstances ; and the combination of 



LAST WORDS. 427 

a duel, involving the death of his adversary, with a wedding, 
in which the bride had been afficMe to the slain man, was 
an irresistibly piquant anecdote, — and " so like " Tcherrii- 
gow. 

The Princess came off remarkably well in the innumer- 
able discussions to which the affair gave rise. In the first 
place Mitford was dead, which was a great point ; and in 
the second, the catalogue of the Prince's luxuries including 
some useful and devoted toadies, who made it their business 
to spread abroad a report which gained ample credence, 
that the unfortunate Englishman was a violent fellow, who 
had no manners, and who had assumed a tone towards Mrs 
Hammond wholly unjustified by their antecedents ; in fact, 
had persecuted that lady, and been excessivement orutale. 

So it was all plain sailing with the Prince and Princess, 
and even the women took the liveliest interest in the latter. 
Poor dear creature, they said, how very sad, but how charm- 
ingly romantic it was ! To think that she had been quite 
ignorant of the duel, and had not had the least idea that her 
bridegroom had shot a man just before he had married her ! 
"When she discovered it, how strange she must have felt ! 
They wondered if it made her experience for a moment a 
very little of repulsion. But no, probably not, — the Prince 
was really such a gentleman ; and the other deplorable per- 
son it was impossible to pity. 

Prince Tchernigow possessed a mansion in the Champs 
Elysees ; and thither, a short time after the arrival of the 
pair, all Paris (presentable Paris, of course) flocked to pay 
their respects, and inspect the magnificence of the posses- 
sions in the midst of which Tchernigow had installed his 
bride — doubtless the most precious of them all. Then came 
brilliant entertainments, and the Princess achieved at one 
stroke the almost incredible eminence of being declared by 
common consent the best-dressed woman in Europe — Paris 
meaning that continent, of course. 

It was at the second of these entertainments that Madame 
de Soubise remarked to Madame de Somme, in a pregnant 
little sentence, beginning with the invariable " elites-done, 
chere Adele," that Madame la Princesse seemed a little dis- 
traite, and had begun to wear rouge like the rest of the 



42 S RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

world. Madame de Homme acquiesced in her friend's re- 
mark, and further added on her own account, that the 
English complexions, undeniably charming, were very evan- 
escent, and that really the Princess had no longer the 
appearance of being young. It was on the same occasion 
that several of the company had asked who was the "petite 
dame" so beautifully dressed, so quiet, and yet so spiritnelle, 
to whom the Princess was so caressing, and the " best " 
men were invariably presented. The "petite dame'''' was 
small and slight, pale-faced, and rather plain, perhaps, than 
pretty. Her features had nothing remarkable about them, 
and her figure was redeemed from insignificance only by 
the taste and richness of her dress. But she was eminently 
attractive ; and before long rumours circulated about the 
salons to the effect that the little lady — the close, the 
inseparable friend of the Princess ; a charming Irish 
widow, who spoke French remarkably well, but with per- 
haps the slightest defect in the accent (it is so difficult to 
be certain that one is taught by persons who are comme il 
faut) — was as witty, as brilliant, as her friend was beautiful. 
She was so completely at her ease, and she enjoyed herself 
so much ; and how delightful it was to see the affection 
which subsisted between the little lady and the Princess ! 
Did one hint to the former that the Princess looked a little 
fatigued, she would be all concern and agitation ; she would 
fly to her cherished Laura, and ask her in fervent tones if 
the pleasures, the delights of this evening of Paradise had 
been too much for her ; and the two women would form the 
prettiest tableau in the world. 

Did any of the worshippers at Laura's canape, beside 
which the Prince, most attentive of bridegrooms, most de- 
voted of men, kept his place steadily all the evening, admire 
the vivacity, the wit, the grace of the little lady, the Princess 
would reply warmly, that her dear Lucy was fortunate in 
possessing such a charming flow of spirits ; and Tchemigow 
would remark that Madame Seymour was indeed a captivat- 
ing islander, but that he understood the Irish ladies re- 
sembled the French in wit and vivacity. 

When the season in Paris approached its termination, the 
beau monde was distressed to learn that the health of the 



LAST WOKDS. 429 

Princess was not in so satisfactory a condition as the host 
of friends who were desolated by the intelligence could have 
desired. She was as much seen as ever ; she was the gayest 
of the gay, the richest of the rich, the most brilliant of the 
brilliant ; but she was not as beautiful at the close of the 
season as she had been at the beginning ; and it was not to 
be denied that Lady "Walford and Mrs Fane— the last new 
brides and beauties from the English capital — had as many 
admirers, if not more. 

The Princess still dressed better than any woman in 
Europe, conventionally defined ; and her diamonds at least 
Avere unapproachable, though there might possibly be 
brighter eyes to be now seen under the Paris moonlight 
and Avaxlight. 

" Going to St Petersburg, are they?" said Lord Dolla- 
more to his bosom-friend the Malacca cane, as he retreated 
gracefully from the side of the Princess's carriage, after a 
brief conversation with her. " Going to St Petersburg, are 
they ? She does not look enchanted ; on the contrary, 
rather frightened, I thought. And that little devil Marcel- 
line, doing her beloved compatriots with such perfect com- 
posure and success ! I would not have lost seeing that for 
a good deal. Gad, the bow she bestowed upon me when 
the Princess introduced me would have done credit to a 
duchess! Madame Seymour, hey? — and Irish ! By Jove, 
I have not enjoyed anything so much for an age ! " 

Lord Dollamore walked on chuckling and tapping his 
ear in his old manner. After a little his face grew graver 
and his confidences with his cane were resumed in a differ- 
ent tone. 

" "What the deuce has come over her, I wonder ? " he 
said. " I see a change ; but I don't know where it is. Is 
it in her face ? is it in her manner ? She's very handsome 
■ — she's wonderfully handsome still, though she rouges ; but 
that's of course here — every one does it ; though it's not a 
case of painting the lily, so far as the Parisiennes are con- 
cerned. Stop, though : there's such a thing as an orange- 
lily — I forgot that. It's something in the expression, I 
fancy — something which gives one an impression that she's 
thinking of one thing and talking of another, which was 



430 EUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

never la belle Laura's way: she knew her monde better than 
to shock their self-love by anything of that kind. Tes : 
that's it, by Jove ! " and Lord Dollamore struck himself 
quite a sharp little blow on the ear ; " I've hit it : the 
expression in her face is fear ! " 

"When Lord Dollamore had stepped back from the side of 
her carriage, and the horses were once more whirling it 
along, to the admiration of the multitude, the Princess sank 
back upon the luxurious cushions with a deep sigh. Madame 
Seymour looked at her with steady composure and not a 
little contempt. 

" Agitated, are you ? " she said ; " and quite upset by 
old memories and all that sort of thing ? What a weak 
fool you are ! you are thinking of the last time you and 
that very estimable nobleman met, I daresay, and feeling 
quite sentimental. If you would remember, in addition, 
what you intended to do when that interesting interview 
took place (I remember it : I thought I never saw anything 
cooler or cleverer than his polite unconsciousness of the 
identity of your dame de compac/nie ; he used to walk with 
me in the shrubberies at Hedmoor, and I've given him a 
kiss occasionally for a guinea), — if you would remember 
what you intended to do, and how completely you have 
done it, it would be more to the purpose." 

The Princess turned towards her companion, and said in 
a hurried broken voice : 

" Tou are wrong, Marcelline,- — you are quite wrong ; I 
was not thinking of anything of the kind. I was only 
thinking of this horrible journey to Bussia. It terrifies 
me." 

" Tes ; but everything terrifies you, you know. How 
odd that Madame la Princesse should not be entTiousiasme 
at the prospect of beholding the ancestral home of Monsieur 
le Prince, of being presented to the gracious and urbane 
monarch who rules the Eussias and the Russians ! They 
are a little difficult to rule as individuals, I fear ; but as a 
nation, no doubt, charming. I should have thought madame 
would have seized the occasion with transport." 

" Marcelline," pleaded Laura, " don't laugh at me ; I am 
in deadly terror of this journey. Tou can save me from it 



LAST WORDS. 431 

if you will. Do, do, Marcelline ! It is all dreadful enough 
even here, where I have some protection — where at least he 
dares not kill me. But if I am taken there, to his dreadful 
country, I shall be quite helpless in his hands. He might 
kill me there, and none would interfere — no one would even 
know, perhaps." 

"'How ignorant she is ! " thought Mademoiselle Marcel- 
line, " and how cowardly ! He has impressed himself upon 
her tolerably effectually, this lacquered savage, and she has 
succumbed. These Englishwomen are very shallow after 
all, no matter how bad they may be." 

The Princess still pleaded, and Mademoiselle Marcelline, 
having derived sufficient amusement just then from her 
companion's weakness, and being somewhat fatigued by her 
importunity, told her at length, and shortly, that she de- 
sired to enjoy the drive, and therefore intended to change 
the subject. For her part, she did not particularly care 
about going to Eussia ; she imderstood that travelling in 
that empire had not been sufficiently systematized on that 
scale of comfort indispensable to persons of condition ; and, 
on the whole, she rather thought they were not likely to go 
to Eussia just then. 

Madame Seymour's apartments in the Hotel Tchernigow 
were among the most luxurioiis and elegant which that 
palatial edifice contained. They were inferior to those of 
the Princess in size alone ; in every detail of comfort and 
sybarite ease they equalled hers. A tiny and delicious 
little boudoir made one of the suite ; and this beautiful re- 
treat was the scene that same evening of a rather remark- 
able conversation. The speakers were the mistress of the 
gem-like apartment and Prince Tchernigow. The former — ■ 
dressed in the most tasteful and becoming evening dress it 
was possible for human milliners to concoct, and adorned 
with jewels, which also differed from those worn by the 
Princess chiefly by their size — and the latter, in his usual 
faultless attire, had met in the boudoir previous to accom- 
panying the Princess to the very last entertainment at which 
they intended to appear. 

" Well, Marcelline," said the Prince, " you did me the 



432 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

honour to summon me. What is it ? Merely that I 
should tell you that you never looked so charming ? " 

' f Tor nothing of the sort," said she, putting aside the 
compliment as beneath her notice and beside the question ; 
" I sent for you to tell you that the Princess does not wish 
to go to St Petersburg. She is nervous, I believe, and has 
some strange notions of the impunity of Russian princes 
on their own versts. At all events, she does not wish to 
go." 

" I am perfectly aware of that fact, Madame Seymour," 
said the Prince, with a peculiar smile ; " but we are going 
to St Petersburg, qtiaud in erne." 

" Very well," said Marcelline ; and she held her wrist 
towards the Prince as a tacit intimation that he was to but- 
ton her dainty glove. " Then we shall not meet for some 
time, for I have not the most remote intention of going to 
St Petersburg." 

" What ! " said the Prince, with an angry start ; " you 
will not come ? You are not serious, Marcelline ? " 

" I am perfectly serious, Prince Tchernigow. T have no 
intention whatever of going to St Petersburg at present, 
and I beg I may hear no more on the subject. Have the 
goodness to ascertain if the Princess is ready ! " She sat 
down and turned over the leaves of a book. 

The Prince walked two or three times up and down the 
little apartment, and swore a Cossack oath or two under 
his breath. Then he stopped opposite to her and said : 

" Where will you consent to go then, Marcelline ? " 

" H-m! " She paused, with an exasperating air of inde- 
cision. " I don't exactly know ; I think I shouldn't mind 
the Mediterranean." 

As she took her place beside the Princess, whose beauty 
was less brilliant than ever that evening, and whose de- 
pression her attendants had not failed to mark, she said, 
" Don't look so wretchedly subdued and terrified, Madame 
la Princesse ; you are not going to behold your princely 
spouse in the cradle of his race and the midst of a grateful 
peasantry. Tou are going to the Mediterranean instead." 

And then she said to herself, " Poor wretch ! I am glad 



LAST WORDS. 433 

I saved her from that for the present. I really object to 
torturing her, when there's nothing to gain." 

Another season, and another, and the Hotel Tehernigow 
opened its hospitable doors, and maintained its reputation 
for splendour, profusion, and fashion. But the health of 
the Princess afforded more and more reason for solicitude to 
the hosts of friends who were desolated by the intelligence 
that she was indisposed ; and the beauty of the Princess 
began to require that adornment from dress which it had 
hitherto bestowed upon the utmost resources of decoration. 
Ugly rumours regarding the princely -menage had begun to 
circulate ; and a few, a very few, of those in high places had 
abated the alacrity with which they had been wont to 
welcome the appearance of the Muscovite magnate in their 
salons. French society does not tolerate overt brutality ; 
and there had been a story about a fall, and a broken arm ; 
and though no doubt both circumstances were purely acci- 
dental, and indeed the fullest particulars were given to the 
numerous callers who were so anxious to hear of the dear 
Princess's progress towards recovery, the matter left an un- 
pleasant impression, which all the efforts made by the 
Princess to convince the world that she was not only the 
richest, but the happiest, woman in Paris did not succeed 
in removing. 

What efforts they were ! How she rouged, and dressed, 
and danced, and talked ! How she drove out with the 
Prince, and talked to him, and smiled at him ! How she 
playfully wore the injured arm in a very conspicuous sling, 
and lamented that she was obliged to let " Alexis " drive 
her darling ponies for her, until her tiresome arm should be 
quite well, and how he perfectly ruined them ! How she 
talked about the polished^n/M^sas being so charming, but 
then so dangerous, — " witness my poor arm, you know," — 
and held the beautiful limb out for pity and admiration ! 
How she complained that she could not ride any more that 
season, the injury having been inflicted on the " bridle- 
arm ; " and exulted in the promise of " Alexis " that if she 
would only take good care of herself, and get quite well, she 
should hunt in Leicestershire next season ! 

28 



434 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

It was all very clever, but it did not do ; and Tcherm- 
gow knew that it did not ; and the Princess knew it also 
and better. 

One night, at the Italiens, an Englishman who had known 
the Princess in former days saw her in her box, sitting 
radiantly in the front, while Madame Seymour occupied a 
less prominent position, and a couple of the most fashion- 
able dandies of the day occupied the background. This 
gentleman had left a party of ladies in the boxes, and 
gone down to the stalls, and he now remarked to his com- 
panion : 

" How awfully she is altered ! I never saw such a wreck 
in so short a time. And surely that lady with her is some 
one I have seen before. Do you know who she is, Dolla- 
more ? " 

" Tes, I do, of course. That lady is Madame Seymour, 
an Irish lady, a widow of large fortune, who is devotedly 
attached to the Princess Tchernigow. She lives with her, — 
for her, it almost appears ; and she speaks French so like a 
native, that it is difficult to distinguish any difference." 

" Ah, then, I am wrong ; and we don't know her," said 
the gentleman, still looking curiously at the party. 

" Well, perhaps you don't exactly know her," said Dolla- 
more ; " but you are right in thinking you had seen her. 
Madame Seymour used to be known at Pedmoor as Made- 
moiselle Marcelline, and she was Mrs Hammond's maid." 

His hearer's exclamation of astonishment was checked 
by a sudden commotion in the Princess's box. She had 
recognized the English party at the moment when his com- 
panion addressed his last question to Lord Dollamore. She 
had fought hard for a moment against her overwhelming 
emotion ; but the days of Laura's strength and self-mastery 
were over, and she fell fainting from her chair. 

Very shortly after this occurrence the paternal yearnings 
of the Czar to behold Prince Tchernigow once more in the 
land of his birth proved too strong for his resistance. The 
Prince and Princess left Prance for Holy Russia ; and that 
was the last that was seen of them in Paris. 

Miss Constance Greenwood, Miss Gillespie, Lizzie Pons- 
ford— which you will — never saw Lady Mitford after that 



LAST WORDS. 435 

memorable occasion on which she yielded up possession of 
the foi-ged bill. A considerable time afterwards Lady Mit- 
ford wrote to her a long and sweet letter, in which she re- 
iterated her thanks for the great service which Miss Grilles- 
pie — so she still called her — had intended doing her ; but 
she said, " even bad the talisman which you left with me 
possessed the powers which you wished to invest it with, it 
was useless — it was too late." Lady Mitford added, that 
she had not forgotten the name under which Miss Gillespie 
had told her she was pursuing a theatrical career ; that she 
had made inquiries, and found that " Miss Constance Green- 
wood " was spoken of in the highest terms, not merely for 
her transcendent abilities, but for the rectitude of her con- 
duct. In conclusion, Lady Mitford invited her correspond- 
ent to come and stay with her when she would, and not to 
fail to apply immediately and directly to her when she was 
in strait or difficulty of any kind. 

People had said that Miss Constance Greenwood's stage- 
tears were the most natural throughout the profession. 
They were not nearly so natural as those which welled up 
hot and blinding into her eyes as she perused Lady Mit- 
ford' s letter, and which showered down thick and heavy on 
to the paper as she pressed it to her lips. That letter is 
yellow with age now ; but, all stained and tear-blurred as it 
is, it is the choicest object in that delicate little desk in 
which Miss Constance Greenwood keeps all her treasures. 

Not that she was Miss Constance Greenwood very long 
after the receipt of that letter. She had risen to the very 
height of popularity with the public, and had drawn a large 
amount of money into Mr Wuff's treasury, when Mr ¥uff 
sent for her one day to his room, and told her in confidence 
that Mr "Frank Likely was going to give up the Parthenium 
next week and go into the Queen's Bench, where he would 
remain until he was "whitewashed;" after undergoing 
which process he and Mrs Likely would undertake an en- 
gagement at the Hatton- Garden Theatre. "And the worst 
of it is," said Mr "Wuff", — " the worst of it is, my dear, that 
Mrs Likelv says she won't have any better-looking woman 
than herself playing leading business in the theatre. That's 
a compliment to you, my dear ; but it seems that you must 



436 RUXXING THE GAUNTLET. 

go ; and as I've made an engagement with the Likeiys, I 
am afraid you and I must part at the end of the season." 

Miss Greenwood shrugged her shoulders and bowed her 
head. She knew that with her present prestige any man- 
ager in London would be glad to engage her. She was in 
no hurry, therefore, to seek for work. The Parthenium 
closed ; Mr Frank Likely's body was seized by the myrmi- 
dons of the sheriff ; Mr "Wuff 's season came to an end ; and 
still Miss Greenwood had not looked after another engage- 
ment, though she had innumerable offers of terms. 

How did Sir Laurence Alsager, so far away from Eng- 
land, keep au courant with London theatrical matters ? 
Just as Miss Greenwood was weighing two offers in her 
mind, doubtful which to accept, she had a visit from an old 
gentleman, who announced himself as Sir Laurence Alsa- 
ger's solicitor, and handed her a letter— a letter which said 
that the writer had never forgotten her intended kindness 
to a certain person ; that he had heard of her theatrical 
success, and desired to serve her. Would she not like to 
be the lessee of the Parthenium — then, as he understood, 
vacant ? If so, his lawyer had instructions to act in any 
way she wished ; to draw what money she required, and to 
carry through the arrangement for her. Miss Greenwood 
gave a little cry of delight ; her old love of fun sprung up 
in her. How glorious it would be to beat the Likeiys with 
their own weapons and in their own den ! She accepted Sir 
Laurence Alsager's kind proposition, she said ; and while 
the lawyer went to work at his business, she went to work 
at hers. She set the eminent Spofforth to work on a new 
piece ; she engaged Dacre Pontifex, who was as distasteful 
to Mr Prank Likely as was Miss Greenwood to his wife. 
She got together a capital stock-company, and took the 
town by storm. Everything prospered with her, and at the 
end of each season she found large gains. She has long since 
repaid Sir Laurence Alsager's advance ; and she has now 
great wealth, and some one to share it with her. Dacre 
Pontifex, who had so long made love to her on the stage, at 
length made love to her in earnest ; and as he had always 
proved himself a thoroughly good fellow, she accepted him, 
and there is no happier couple in England. They have 



LAST WORDS. 437 

almost given up acting now ; but they still retain the 
theatre, and are thought highly of by all who know them. 

And Lord Dollamore ? Lord Dollamoi'e still lives, as well 
as, and in some respects better than, ever. He superin- 
tended all the arrangements for sending Sir Charles Mit- 
ford's body to England under the charge of Banks — a duty 
which that functionary performed with the greatest reluct- 
ance, declaring that he had not been engaged to "wait upon 
corpses ; " and then Dollamore had a long and serious con- 
sultation with his stick, the subject of which was whether 
it would be expedient for him to make any change in his 
mode of life. The idea of marriage had never entered his 
head ; but now that he knew Lady Mitford was free, he 
began to experience a curious sensation at his heart, which 
caused him at first the wildest astonishment, and then a 
considerable amount of trouble. He had watched Georgie 
through all her trials and temptations, and the sight had 
impressed him deeply. For the first time since manhood 
he confessed (to himself) a belief in virtue, bravery, and 
selflessness ; for the first time in his life he felt an irrepress- 
ible yearning towards the possessor of these qualities ; and 
he thought how the companionship of such a woman would 
illumine the decline of his aimless, purposeless life. 

He was for some days in doubt whether he should not 
return at once to England, and after a decent interval pro- 
ceed tentatively to see whether an offer of his hand to Lady 
Mitford would be likely to be successful ; but he finally 
decided otherwise. He was no longer young, his manner 
of life was formed ; and he doubted whether he should have 
strength to keep to all his good resolutions — in which case, 
and in the event of his marriage with Georgie, her old 
troubles would be renewed when she had less strength to 
bear them. 

There is no doubt, however, that the mere fact of his in- 
dulging in such thoughts proved that he was to a certain 
extent an altered man. His tongue is much less bitter, his 
manner much less rough, his thoughts much less cynical 
than thev were. The person who suffers most from him 
now is the chef of the Maecenas, when Dollamore rules the 



438 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

House-Committee. When that unfortunate Frenchman 
hears from the house-steward that Lord Dollamore has been 
seen whispering to his stick about an entree or an omelette, 
he knows what to expect the next day. 

tfP -JF ?Vf *?(" tp 'J? 

When Lady Mitford was told by Captain Bligh, who exe- 
cuted his task with great feeling, if not with profound skill, 
that her waiting was all in vain, — that her letter had never 
reached her unfortunate husband, but had been carefully 
enclosed with the effects of the deceased, and consigned to 
the custody of Mr Banks, she was not so completely over- 
whelmed as might have been expected. She listened pa- 
tiently to all the details which it was considered necessary 
to give her, and bore herself with a gentle fortitude which 
surprised all who saw her. 

The remains of the unfortunate Earonet arrived in due 
time ; the funeral was " performed ; " and Sir Charles Mit- 
ford rested in the family burial-place — the most unfortunate 
of a race who had been generally rather uninterestingly 
prosperous. 

Lady Mitford found herself very rich. Not only did she 
come into possession of an ample jointure, but the entire 
sum destined for a provision for younger children was be- 
queathed to her, in case of the non-existence or death of 
such children. She was very much surprised to find that 
Sir Charles had made a will, not many months prior to his 
death, by which he had left her considerable personal 
property also ; so that her position was an enviable one, as 
far as pecuniary affairs were concerned. How far that was, 
she had yet to learn. She had courage, resignation, and 
patience ; and she had the good gift of common sense, en- 
abling her to lay plans and make arrangements with judg- 
ment and foresight ; but she was not cold-hearted, nor 
callous, and the time lay yet a good way distant at which 
she could reckon her riches and feel her freedom. 

The next heir to the title and entailed estates was a boy 
named Edward Mitford, whom Lady Mitford had never seen, 
and who, with his widowed mother, lived in an obscure vil- 
lage in Warwickshire, where the heir to so much wealth 
and position picked up a very indifferent education at a 



LAST WORDS. 439 

school of fourth-rate pretensions and sixth-rate performances. 
jSo mention of this youth had been made by Sir Charles, 
who had, very naturally, bestowed no thought upon the 
distant contingency of his succession. The house in Lon- 
don had been rented by Sir Charles for a term of years ; and 
Lady Mitford determined to retain it in her own possession. 
Having formed this resolution, and ascertained all that was 
necessary relative to her position, Lady Mitford wrote to 
the Reverend Cuthbert Farleigh. She recalled herself to 
his recollection, and appealed to his kindness. She was 
very friendless, she said, and wanted advice. Sir Laurence 
Alsager had told her that the kindness of heart which had 
been so distinguishing a characteristic of Cuthbert Farleigh 
in his boyhood was no less conspicuous in his more advanced 
and responsible years, and she asked him to come to her. 
She did not make any mention of Helen in the letter ; she 
would defer that until they could talk it over, she thought ; 
and then he would perhaps make her an offer of Helen's 
society, which she would gladly accept. 

The Eeverend Cuthbert answered the letter in person ; 
and the meeting between the former friends and companions 
under such altered circumstances could hardly have failed 
to be affecting. G-eorgie thanked him with all her heart, 
and felt less lonely and desolate that evening than she had 
felt since the day on which Sir Laurence Alsager had left 
her. He had arrived late ; and they agreed to postpone 
the discussion of the serious matters on which Greorgie de- 
sired his advice until the following day. 

As Lady Mitford sat alone that night before the bright 
fire in her dressing-room, she passed her life before her 
in mental review. She questioned herself concerning the 
grief which she felt so keenly, and yet blamed herself for 
not feeling with still greater acuteness. The oppression, 
the vague gloom of a great change, of a tremendous shock, 
from whose first effects she had not suffered so much as 
from that which succeeded, were on her. The dreadful 
death of her husband appalled her ; less because it was he 
who had been killed, and because he had been killed in so 
awful a manner, than because it seemed to set the seal of 
the curse upon their marriage. She saw that marriage now 



440 KTONINS THE GAUNTLET. 

as it was, — a mistake first ; then a disaster ; finally a catas- 
trophe ; — and she recoiled with horror from the awful lesson 
of life thus opened out before her. 

" Swift and sure," she thought, "punishment has followed 
wrong in Ms case. It seems hard, too ; he was not the 
only man beguiled by a wanton woman, not the only 
man who betrayed and deserted his wife. Little as I 
have seen of the world, I have seen instances of the same 
thing ; but these men, who had as little conscience, had more 
self-control, more judgment, more self-respect, and did not 
expose themselves to the risks which he dared, and which 
have been fatal to him. Poor fellow ! poor Charley ! " 

Her reveries always ended thus, in sweet womanly com- 
passion and forgiveness. She did not deceive herself; she 
did not lament for Sir Charles with the intense and pas- 
sionate grief of bereavement ; she did not make any false 
estimate of her loss, or give way to any sentiment in which 
the perfect truth did not abide ; but she shrank appalled 
and miserable from the contemplation of so total a wreck 
as her wretched husband's life had been, from the possibili- 
ties of sin and suffering which it revealed to her. 

Lord Dollamore had written to her, — Banks had brought 
the letter ; and so she learned that the last thought of the 
dying man had been of her, the last word he had spoken 
had been her name. Greorgie did not attach greater im- 
portance to this fact than it deserved. She knew how to 
discriminate between remorse and repentance too well to 
make a mistake ; but she was very thankful for the message, 
very thankful that her husband had been permitted to utter 
it. She knew that in the future, as long as she should live, 
those words would be a comforting recollection to her ; and 
she fully comprehended how much harder it would all have 
been to endure, had the silence which had subsisted between 
her and Sir Charles for several clays before he left town 
never been broken, even by those two gasping, hardly-ar- 
ticulate sounds. 

Cuthbert Larloigh and Lady Mitford held a long con- 
sultation, as they had agreed to do ; and during its progress 
the curate learned that she was acquainted with the fact of 
his engagement to Helen Manningtree ; and Lady Mitford 



LAST WORDS. 441 

imparted to him the permission and counsel Sir Laurence 
Alsagcr had given her to ask Helen to come to her in any 
time of need. 

"Tou have had more than one such time of need, dear 
Lady Mitford," said Cuthbert, " since Sir Laurence wrote 
to you and to Helen ; and why have you never made a sign, 
why have you never asked Helen 1o come to you ? " 

'• Because I could not think it right, Cuthbert. The 
trouble I was in was of a peculiar kind, — my sorrow was 
the result of another's sin; and I don't think it would have 
been right to have brought a young girl like Helen in contact 
with it. When I think of my own girlhood, when I re- 
member how far I was from the mere knowledge of such 
perversities in human relations being possible, I am sure 
I was right." 

Cuthbert Farleigh remembered his own words to Helen, 
— " You are better without the confidence of an unhappy 
wife,"- — and admired the directness with which the instinct 
and the principle of this woman had guided her to a similar 
conclusion. 

"But now," she said, <: that is all over. When you an 
I come to the end of our conversation, let the days which 
preceded the dark and terrible one of his death "—she 
paused for a moment to command her voice, — " let them be 
consigned to oblivion. There are no faults in the grave ; 
all is so trifling, so small, so contemptible in the presence 
of that great mystery. I think it is a happy thing, Cuth- 
bert, that the death of a person who has ever been beloved 
blots out not only anger, but dulls remembrance. I know 
this is the truth, that many and many a day I sat brooding 
over small offences, little slights, trifling but significant 
departures from the courtesies and the graces of love ; and 
oh how miserable such brooding made me ! Well, I forget 
them all now ; every trace of bitterness has disappeared, — 
I remember only all the good there was in my poor Charley. 
Yes, Cuthbert, he is mine again now ; he had ceased to be 
hers before he was slain ; now he is mine again, and I am 
not going to dwell on his faults." 

Cuthbert Farleigh was privately of opinion that Lady 
JVIitford proposed to herself an exceedingly limited sphere 



442 KUNMING THE GAUNTLET. 

of contemplation in respect to her late estimable lord ; but 
lie admired, he reverenced, as every man with the heart of 
a gentleman must, the simple, beautiful, unreasoning in- 
stinct of womanly tenderness. 

" So now," she went on, " there can be no harm in 
Helen's coming to me. I am a widow so much sadder and 
more pitiable than other widows, that I cannot talk of him 
whom I have lost with that free outspoken pride which is 
so instinctive in other women, and which must be so sweet 
and so bitter too, so precious and so terrible. I am truly 
widowed ; for life robbed me of my husband before death 
came to hide him from my eyes. The world will cease to 
talk about him soon, and it will forget me when it does not 
see me. There will be nothing objectionable in the quiet 
life which I shall ask Helen to share with me until you ask 
her to leave my home for yours." 

Helen Manningtree obeyed Lady Mitford's summons ; 
and from the first hours of their mutual association Sir 
Laurence Alsager's hopes and expectations were fulfilled. 
They " suited each other " exactly, and their companionship 
was beneficial to both. 

Helen Manningtree and Mrs Chisholm corresponded 
with great regularity with Sir Laurence, now travelling 
somewhere in the East, and furnishing the most inscrutable 
addresses for their letters, the attempt to decipher which 
they ordinarily gave up in despair and pasted them bodily 
on the envelopes. Their letters were written from London 
and from Knockholt respectively, and furnished the reci- 
pient with the fullest particulars respecting their writers, 
and the most accurate details of the few events which 
marked the first year of Lady Mitford's widowhood. 

Thus from Helen Sir Laurence learned that the young 
Sir Edward and his mother had come to town on Lady 
Mitford's invitation, and that Georgie and the quiet little 
lady from the country soon became great friends ; that the 
young baronet was a promising boy enough, but given to 
idleness, the avoidance of soap-and-water, and the pursuit 
of useless amusements, such as cricket and fishing, as 
contra-distinguished from classical and useful learning; that 
his mother and Lady Mitford having duly consulted the 



LAST WORDS. 443 

family advisers, and received from them the simple counsel 
that they had better manage the boy as they thought 
proper, had considered that the very best way of managing 
him would be to establish him comfortably under the charge 
of a private tutor of unusually desirable attainments. 

When Ellen next wrote she informed Sir Laureuce 
that the private tutor of unusually desirable attainments 
had been found in the person of Cuthbert Earleigh, 
who had, moreover, been provided with a very comfortable 
living not very far distant from Knockholt, by virtue of 
a mysterious arrangement whereby somebody gave up 
this piece of preferment at the present, in consideration 
of some other " good thing " of a similar kind which 
would be at the young baronet's disposal in the future. 
Helen did not understand the arrangement very clearly, 
but she had a perfect appreciation of its results ; and 
though her account of the transaction, as written "out" 
to Sir Laurence (who, though he wrote vaguely of coming 
soon, was still beyond the reach of civilization and spelling), 
was remarkably confused, two facts appeared with unmis- 
takable clearness. The one was that the family lawyers 
were satisfied with the arrangements (" There's no simony 
in it, then, or bedevilment of that kind," thought Sir Lau- 
rence, relieved when he ascertained this first fact) ; the 
second was that Helen's marriage could not take place so 
early as she and Cuthbert had hoped, because since Cuth- 
bert had ceased to be a curate, the cares of property and 
position had fallen upon him, involving the repairing and 
altering of his parsonage-house, new furnishing, &c, &c. " So 
now, as it is so far off, dear Laurence," wrote Helen, " you 
really must come home in time for my wedding. I think 
we should have put the event off, at all events, in order to 
admit of Lady Mitford's being present ; and now, as her 
year's deep mourning will have more than expired, she has 
promised to come. Indeed, I rather think our marriage 
will take place here. Tou would be much surprised, if you 
could see her, at her cheerfulness. I am sure it must arise 
from her perfect forgetfulness of self. She lives entirely 
for others, and her serenity and sweetness tell that peace is 
the result. Sir Edward is greatly attached to her ; he and 



444 RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

Cuthbert also get on very well together. As usual, Lady 
Mitford sends her kindest regards." 

From Mrs Chisholm Sir Laurence received good tidings 
of affairs at Knockholt Park. That excellent lady prided 
herself upon her letter- writing, fondly flattering herself, at 
times, that she turned her sentences in something of the 
same manner in which her gifted Augustine had rounded 
those flowing periods which had been so effective when the 
departed curate occupied the pulpit at St Parable's. She 
liked writing letters, and especially to Sir Laurence ; and 
though she furnished him with plentiful details concerning 
individuals of whose identity he had the most vague and 
confused ideas ; and though she was very pathetic indeed 
on the theme of Cuthbert's removal " to a sphere of, I 
trust, greatly extended usefulness, but that usefulness to 
others to be purchased at the price of a relapse into 
spiritual destitution here very sad to contemplate," — Sir 
Laurence liked receiving her letters. 

The truth was, his heart yearned towards England and 
home. He had imposed upon himself a fixed term of 
absence, and nothing would have induced him to abridge 
that period ; but all his resolution did not check his imagin- 
ation, did not arrest his fancy, did not quell his longing 
for its expiration. The smallest details which reached him 
from the distant households in which he was held in such 
affectionate remembrance had ineffable charm for him. He 
found himself, under the most unpropitious circumstances 
and hi the most unheard-of places, writing lengthy epistles 
to Mrs Chisholm — letters full of almost feminine inquisi.- 
tiveness, and enjoining the immediate despatch of volumin- 
ous replies. He rejoiced the good lady's heart by the 
sympathy which he expressed in all the local matters which 
she detailed ; and he soothed her sorrows concerning the 
departure of Cuthbert by so dexterous an argument in 
favour of the almost inevitable eligibility of the curate 
destined to succeed him, that Mrs Chisholm actually pre- 
pared to receive him with a gracious and hopeful welcome. 
Sir Laurence was right ; only a young man of exemplary 
piety and conscientious intentions in the direction of parish- 
work would be at all likely to accept so poor a provision as 



LAST WORDS. 445 

the curacy at Laneham, — no doubt all would be "well ; and 
she hoped dear Cuthbert would not be led away by his 
preferment. It was, however, melancholy to observe how 
great a contrast sometimes existed between the lowly and 
hard-working curate and the proud, lazy, and worldly- 
minded rector. She trusted such a contrast might never 
exist in the case of dear Cuthbert. 

The simple-minded lady was thinking, as she thus ex- 
pressed her guileless hopes and fears, of one curate to whom 
preferment never came., nnd whom it never could have 
spoiled. She had a strong conviction that if there should 
prove to be any celestial institution at all resembling a 
bench of bishops in a future state, she should find her 
Augustine occupying a very prominent place among its 
occupants. 

So the time passed on, and the period appointed for 
Helen's marriage drew near. The wedding was to be a 
very quiet one, as Lady Mitford had insisted on its taking 
place at her house, and the first year of her widowhood 
would have expired only a few weeks before the time for 
the marriage. 

Mrs Chisholm, Mrs Mitford, the young baronet, and the 
Reverend Cuthbert Earleigh (rector of Everingham and 
principal on this auspicious occasion), Helen, and her 
hostess, were assembled at Lady Mitford's house on the last 
evening but one before the event. They were all together 
in the drawing-room, and were engaged in discussing the 
chances for and against the arrival of Sir Laurence Alsager 
in time for the wedding. 

" I am afraid he has made a mistake," said Cuthbert, 
" about a steamer to Trieste. I can find no announcement 
of one for a week to come." 

" Xo, no," said Helen ; " Laurence said he would come, 
and Laurence will be here. I would not give him up if we 
were all in the church." 

" What do you think, Lady Mitford ? " asked Sir 
Edward ; " I'm awfully anxious to see this Sir Laurence 
you and Helen are for ever jawing about, — I'm sure he's 
awfully jolly, though I suppose he's no end of a swell." 

The Beverend Cuthbert Earleigh considered it his duty 



44G RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 

to correct the young gentleman's vernacular at this juncture, 
and Lady Mitford did not appea.r to have heard the ques- 
tion. At all events she allowed it to remain unanswered. 

At this moment a servant brought Helen a note. " Come 
by hand from the Clarendon, ma'am," he explained. 

Helen exclaimed rapturously : 

" It's from Laurence ! He's in London ! We shall see 
him to-morrow ! There, Cuthbert, you incredulous person, 
will you ever doubt Laurence's promise or dispute my 
opinion again ? " 

" Certainly not, after the day after to-morrow, Nelly," 
replied Cuthbert. 

There was a small enclosure in Sir Laurence's note to 
Helen, which she had slipped into her pocket unperceived. 
It bore Lady Mitford's name ; but Helen waited until she 
was about to take leave of her, as usual, for the night at the 
door of her own room before she handed it to her. When 
she was alone Greorgie opened the note. It was very brief; 
it contained only three words. They were : 

" FoRTITER ElDELITEE FeLICTTER ? " 

G-eorgie's reply to this query was perfectly satisfactory 
to Sir Laurence Alsager. 



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